Independent MSP Margo MacDonald dies

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Margo MacDonald's career saw her serve as an elected member at both the Scottish and UK parliaments

The independent MSP and former SNP politician Margo McDonald has died.

A member of the Scottish Parliament since 1999, the 70-year-old had been suffering from Parkinson's disease.

Her husband Jim Sillars said: "Today the brightest light in the Scottish political firmament has gone out."

Ms MacDonald, a hugely influential figure in the Scottish independence movement, rose to prominence after winning the Glasgow Govan Westminster by-election for the SNP in 1973.

She later served as an SNP MSP for the Lothian region, before going on to represent the area as an independent member of the Scottish Parliament.

Media caption,
BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor looks back on the life and career of a "charismatic and hugely popular" politician

Mr Sillars, a former SNP deputy leader, 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."

'Wit and sparkle'

He added: "She was without question the most able politician of her generation.

"Today the brightest light in the Scottish political firmament has gone out."

Ms MacDonald lost her Govan seat in the subsequent UK election, but went on to a successful broadcasting career, before her return as an MSP.

Image caption,
Ms MacDonald rose to prominence after winning the 1973 Glasgow Govan by-election for the SNP

In the Scottish Parliament, she became known for high-profile campaigns, including legalising assisted suicide for the terminally ill.

Flags at the parliament were flying at half mast as a mark of respect.

Tributes for Ms MacDonald, herself a former SNP deputy leader, poured in from across the political divide.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, said: "Margo MacDonald was one of the great rallying figures of Scottish nationalism.

"From her Govan by-election victory in 1973 she had a profound role in Scotland's home rule journey.

Image source, Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Image caption,
Flags at the parliament were flying at half mast as a mark of respect.

"Very few politicians are recognised and known to the public by their first name - Margo was. Even fewer have the profile and talent to be elected comprehensively as an independent candidate - Margo had."

Mr Salmond added: "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."

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Margo MacDonald was a hugely influential figure in the Scottish independence movement
Image source, Getty Images

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, added: "Scottish politics will be poorer, less colourful and less interesting without Margo MacDonald.

"She was a woman of remarkable personal strength and political conviction."

Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick described Ms MacDonald as "brave, passionate and committed", adding: "She was a sparkling jewel in the Scottish Parliament, her contributions were incisive, intelligent and always got to the heart of the issue under discussion.

"Margo cared about people and, in return, they cared about her."

'Force of nature'

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, said: "Margo's passing sees a bright light, and one of the biggest personalities and characters of Scottish modern political life, go out.

"Her sense of humour, passion, integrity and unflinching desire to speak truth to power, meant she came as close to a political treasure in Scotland as I think it is possible to be."

Image caption,
Ms MacDonald, seen here with a youthful Jeremy Paxman, worked in broadcasting between stints as an elected politician

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: "Margo MacDonald was a huge figure in Scottish politics and a complete one-off.

"Forthright and determined, she was also humorous and warm - passionate about issues, about the parliament itself and about the better Scotland she wanted to help build.

"She sat as an independent, and independent she was - independent of thought, independent of mind and independent of spirit."

Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, added: "Margo was a force of nature in Scottish life.

"The affection for her transcends party politics and political parties. Her personal kindness and professional charm will be missed in the parliament, throughout the Lothians and far wider."

Media caption,
People in Govan, where Margo MacDonald was elected MP in 1973, pay tribute to the independent MSP who died at her home in Edinburgh

Green MSP Patrick Harvie, who will continue to take forward the bill Ms MacDonald brought to parliament on legalising assisted suicide, said: "I've always enjoyed the wit and sparkle she brought to debates in the chamber, but she could also offer a formidable challenge when it was needed, and showed long term dedication to the causes she chose to work for.

"Margo won't now see the culmination of two debates she was deeply involved in; the referendum on Scotland's independence, and the Assisted Suicide Bill which she introduced last year.

"But as both these debates continue, I am certain that campaigners on all sides will recognise Margo MacDonald's contribution to Scottish public life, her vibrancy and her passion."

As Ms MacDonald was an independent MSP elected to Holyrood as a regional list member, there will be no by-election, and her seat will remain vacant until the next Scottish Parliament election, in 2016.

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