Margo MacDonald MSP dies at 70

Margo MacDonald was an Independent MSP. Picture: Esme Allen
Margo MacDonald was an Independent MSP. Picture: Esme Allen
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Veteran Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald, who had Parkinson’s disease, has died aged 70.

She had battled with ill health for some time, but continued working right up to the end.

Jim Sillars and Margo MacDonald. 'Picture: Neil Hanna

Jim Sillars and Margo MacDonald. 'Picture: Neil Hanna

Ms MacDonald, an Evening News columnist, had been a member of the Scottish Parliament from the start.

Elected as an SNP list MSP for Lothian in 1999, she became an independent in 2003 and was re-elected in 2007 and 2011.

Champion of causes

She championed a wide range of causes, from questioning the escalating expense of the Holyrood parliament building to prostitution tolerance zones and most recently her Bill to legalise assisted suicide.

Margo Macdonald and Jim Sillars on their wedding day.

Margo Macdonald and Jim Sillars on their wedding day.

In a statement, her husband, Jim Sillars, said: “My wife Margo MacDonald died peacefully at home surrounded by her family today at 1.10pm.

“She leaves a void in our lives which will be impossible to fill and her death robs the Scottish nation of one of its greatest talents.

“She was without question the most able politician of her generation. Today the brightest light in the Scottish political firmament has gone out. Her legacy will speak for itself.

“She supported and inspired generations of idealists and campaigners who, like her, wanted Scotland to take its place in the world.

Margo MacDonald in 1973.

Margo MacDonald in 1973.

“Her talent acted like a magnet and she gave her time so freely to so many for so long.

“Many will mourn, but the pain of loss will be borne most of all by those at the heart of her life; her children and her grandchildren, we will do all we can to honour her memory.

Margo’s Evening News columns

Unity can fight for human rights

Margo MacDonald, SNP winner of the Govan by-election waves to supporters in November 1973.

Margo MacDonald, SNP winner of the Govan by-election waves to supporters in November 1973.

Tide has turned for suicide bill

Sean Connery’s election broadcast

Blonde Bombshell

She first burst on the political scene as the “Blonde Bombshell” who won the 1973 Govan by-election for the SNP.

She lost the seat at the general election the following year, but became deputy leader of the party the same year and held the post until 1979.

She was a member of the left-wing ‘79 group of Nationalists - along with Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill. Several of the group were expelled from the SNP in 1982 for their activities and Ms MacDonald resigned in protest.

Margo MacDonald. Picture: Greg Macvean

Margo MacDonald. Picture: Greg Macvean

She carved out a career as a journalist and broadcaster, presenting programmes on both radio and television.

Devolution opened the door to Margo’s return to parliamentary politics and she was elected as an SNP list MSP for Lothian in the first Scottish Parliament elections in 1999.

Four years later, jealousies inside the party saw her pushed too far down the rankings to have a realistic chance of getting re-elected and she decided to quit the SNP and stand as an independent.

For almost any other politician, it would have been a massive gamble, but Margo’s profile and popularity were such that she got back in comfortably.

She campaigned hard for Edinburgh, successfully using her influence to secure extra funding in recognition of the city’s role as the Capital.


Paying tribute, First Minister Alex Salmond said: “I saw her only last week to talk tactics on the independence referendum. Despite great physical infirmity, she dispensed wise advice and her enthusiasm and commitment to the independence cause was bright and undimmed.

“The condolences of myself and Moira go to Jim, Zoe, Petra and all of Margo’s family.”

Margo MacDonald tributes: ‘A sparkling jewel in Holyrood’

Councillor Andrew Burns, Leader of Edinburgh City Council, said: “I’m sure I speak for everyone at the Council when I say that Edinburgh and indeed Scotland have today lost one of our finest public servants following this very sad news.

“Margo MacDonald was a principled and committed politician who worked tirelessly to champion the Capital’s interests at a national level.

“She was truly one of a kind, both passionate and courageous. She will be very much missed and our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with her family and friends.”

Katherine Crawford, Director for Parkinson’s UK in Scotland, said: “Put simply, Margo MacDonald was an inspiration to all she met and I am deeply saddened by her passing.

“It has been our honour to work with Margo over the last few years and we could not help but admire her bravery in living with the daily challenges of Parkinson’s.

“Margo had immense heart, and her undeniable intelligence personality and humour touched all of those she met. Margo’s work with Parkinson’s UK in Scotland has been immeasurable, and her steadfast support has most certainly helped to build a lasting legacy for the 10,000 people living with Parkinson’s in Scotland. Our thoughts are with her family at this difficult time.”

See Also:

• Goodbye Margo MacDonald, you will be missed

• Tributes to Margo MacDonald - a sparkling jewel in Holyrood

• Grant Stott: Proud to call Margo MacDonald my pal

• A politician loved by the people

Margo MacDonald was a colourful campaigner.

Margo MacDonald was a colourful campaigner.