Library archive to honour Margo MacDonald

Margo MacDonald at Holyrood. Picture: Esme Allen
Margo MacDonald at Holyrood. Picture: Esme Allen
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THE husband of Margo MacDonald has revealed plans to set up an archive in her memory.

Speaking on the first anniversary of his wife’s death, Jim Sillars said the National Library of Scotland had asked her family to donate papers from her political career to create a “Margo archive”.

He said: “We’ve agreed and we won’t put any restrictions on it. It means the work she did will be available for researchers and future generations. They’ve already been getting inquiries.”

Ms MacDonald was diagnosed with the degenerative illness Parkinson’s in 2002 but continued her work as an independent MSP for Lothian.

She campaigned for the right to assisted dying, hoping to bring about a change in the law allowing people with terminal illnesses to decide their own fate.

Ms MacDonald died at her Edinburgh home in April 4 last year at the age of 70 after her immune system had been compromised by her condition.

Since receiving the request from the National Library, Mr Sillars has been going through old paperwork dating from as far back as 1996.

He has also viewed more than 20 video tapes, showing his wife at political rallies and campaigning on the issues that were important to her.

A new Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill, taken forward by Green MSP Patrick Harvie, is due to be debated by a 
Holyrood committee. Mr Sillars has said he hoped MSPs would have a free vote on the controversial issue, adding that it has to be a “matter of conscience rather than a party whip”.

He said: “People have to ask if they are 100 per cent against assisted suicide or would they permit it in certain situations?”

Originally a Scottish National Party MP, Margo stood later as an independent and was returned three times to Holyrood as a regional MSP for the Lothians.

She was born Margo Aitken in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, went to Hamilton Academy and studied to be a teacher of physical education at Dunfermline College.

She came to political prominence through her success in the Glasgow Govan by-election of 1973 when she seized the traditional Labour stronghold for the SNP.

At her memorial service, Mr Sillars spoke poignantly about how his wife’s death had robbed the country of one of its greatest political stars.

On Saturday, the first anniversary of her death, he said the past year had proved to him how inspirational she had been. He also said that wherever he goes he is reminded of the affection in which his wife of 33 years was held.

The former Nationalist MP travelled on the Margomobile battlebus during the referendum campaign and is now on the general election trail.

He said: “Many people, particularly women, continue to tell me what an inspirational figure Margo was and they are still saying how much they miss her.

“A year on, there is no sign of that abating.”