Margo MacDonald portrait may hang in parliament

Artist Gerard M Burns, below, has been commissioned to create a portrait of Margo MacDonald. Picture: Esme Allen
Artist Gerard M Burns, below, has been commissioned to create a portrait of Margo MacDonald. Picture: Esme Allen
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A portrait of the independent Lothian MSP Margo MacDonald, who died in April, has been commissioned from a leading Scottish artist.

And her family and supporters hope it can hang in the parliament as a lasting tribute to Margo’s unique place in the country’s politics.

Her husband, Jim Sillars, right, said the money remaining from the “Margomobile” fund – the campaign vehicle he used to deliver Margo’s message during the referendum – would be used to pay for a portrait.

He has approached celebrated artist Gerard M Burns to do the job. The feted artist – who wants his fee to go to charity – is due to meet Ms MacDonald’s family before Christmas to discuss details.

Mr Sillars said: “I have 
written to the chief executive of the Scottish Parliament, asking if they will accept the portrait to be hung permanently in the parliament building to commemorate Margo’s contribution to parliament and political and public life in Scotland.

“I don’t agree, as I explained in my letter, with public money being spent on commemorating anyone except those in institutional positions, like First Minister or Presiding Officer. But this is not public money. This is money left over from the Margomobile.”

Speaking to the Evening News from New York, where he is photographing celebrities including Ewan McGregor and Alan Cumming, Mr Burns said: “Margo was a presence, she was such a memorable figure. I feel in this case, I don’t want any money for it – it should go to charity. It feels right.”

Mr Burns, who usually takes photographs of his subjects before working on their portraits, said the project would be a challenge.

“Its success will depend on the images that Jim will be able to provide,” he said.

Former first minister Alex Salmond chose one of Mr Burns’ paintings, A New Journey, for his Christmas Card in 2009. It features Mr Burns’ niece, Hannah McQuillan, and a Saltire. Mr Salmond also had another of Mr Burns’ paintings, The Rowan, hanging in his office in parliament.

Mr Sillars said: “We hope the parliament will accept Margo was a rather unique person and therefore they are not setting a precedent.”

The concept of a Margo portrait hanging in the corridors of power has already won support from other politicians.

Edinburgh Southern SNP MSP Jim Eadie said: “While it is impossible for any portrait to do justice to the wonderful personality that was Margo, this is a fitting tribute to one of Scotland’s greats. It deserves a prominent place in the parliament that she did so much to establish and enhance the stature of by her presence and many incisive and witty contributions.”

A Holyrood spokeswoman said: “The parliament has no policy of commemorating the lives of members or former members who have died but it is being reflected upon.”