Scotland politics

Reaction: Margo MacDonald dies

Margo MacDonald Image copyright Getty Images

Veteran Scottish politician Margo MacDonald has died peacefully at home, her family confirmed.

Mrs MacDonald, 70, who suffered from Parkinson's disease, had represented the Scottish National Party at both Westminster and Holyrood, before latterly serving as an independent MSP for the Lothian region.

Mrs MacDonald's husband and former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars

"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."

First Minister Alex Salmond

"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.

"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.

"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."

Scottish Labour Leader Johann Lamont

"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."

"As one half of a formidable political union with Jim, she was a trailblazer in many ways. The fact that she was elected and returned as an independent by the people of Lothian, a rare feat in national politics, shows how she had become part of our political fabric. Her loss leaves parliament, her much-loved Leith and her family, with a very large and painful gap which can't be filled."

Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie

"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."

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson

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

"From prostitution to assisted suicide, she was willing to champion difficult, challenging and morally complex issues to ensure they got the parliamentary consideration they deserved."

Better Together leader Alistair Darling

"Margo was one of the warmest and most compassionate women I ever met. She was also one of the most determined and formidable Scottish politicians of her generation. I shall miss her very much. My thoughts are with Jim and the family."

Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow

"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. I know I'll miss her every time I walk into the Chamber."

Former SNP leader Gordon Wilson

"Margo MacDonald is irreplaceable. She was a consummate politician of the first rank. She had a major influence in Scottish politics and the development of the SNP.

"Her remarkable achievement of election to the Scottish Parliament as an independent on three occasions is a record that can hardly be equalled.

"Today with her passing, much of the colour has gone from Scottish politics and the Scottish Parliament. It is a shame she did not live to enjoy casting a Yes vote in the referendum or for that matter commenting on the outcome."

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael

"Scottish politics will be poorer, less colourful and less interesting without Margo MacDonald. She was a woman of remarkable personal strength and political conviction.

"I shall always remember working with her on the campaign to release Kenny Richey, a Scot on death row in Ohio. That was when I learnt for myself that whenever she saw injustice she would not rest until it was sorted."

Katherine Crawford, director for Parkinson's UK in Scotland

"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."

Holyrood Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick

"To be known and recognised by a first name is reserved to very few. But everyone knew Margo. She had a rare skill in being able to translate political speak into language we could all understand.

"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."

Grahame Smith Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) general secretary

"She made an enormous impact on Scottish politics and public life. She was a passionate fighter for all she believed, often taking on issues that other shied away from. You could disagree with her but never fall out with her and if she chided you it was always with the best intent and with a fair degree of humour."

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev Lorna Hood

"She was a larger than life character who transcended party politics and was fervent in her beliefs about Scottish independence. She was also passionate in her very personal campaign regarding the right to a dignified death.

"Although we in the Church hold different views, we are grateful to her for bringing end of life issues into the public arena, particularly in our care for those nearing death.

"Margo was a guest at a dinner I hosted a few months ago on end of life issues. She was spirited and entertaining and spoke with great conviction about her beliefs. By the end of the evening, a palliative care consultant opposed to Margo's position said she'd realised their views weren't so far apart after all."

Bruce Beveridge, President of the Law Society of Scotland

"She was hugely influential and committed to the causes she passionately believed in such as Scottish independence and assisted suicide legislation and she will sadly now not see the outcome of these two debates.

"She was a vibrant and important figure in Scottish public life and a staunch supporter of the Scottish legal profession, shown by being a judge for many years for the Scottish Legal Awards.

"She will be very sadly missed and her loss will be keenly felt across the political spectrum."

Nicola Sturgeon - Scottish government deputy first minister

Tweeted: "Such a sad loss to @ScotParl, Scotland & the independence movement. RIP the legendary Margo MacDonald. My thoughts with @NaeFear and family" - (Note: @NaeFear is the Twitter account of her husband Jim Sillars)

John Swinney - Scottish government finance secretary

Tweeted: "Desperately sorry that Margo MacDonald has died. Her inspiration to Scotland and to all of us is beyond measure. My sympathy to her family."

Angus Robertson, the SNP's leader at Westminster and MP for Moray

Tweeted: "Very sorry to hear that @Margo_MacDonald has died. Condolences to @NaeFear, family and friends."

Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife

Tweeted: "Very sad to hear about the death of Margo MacDonald. A great parliamentarian, an independent spirit, and a good friend."

Tim Farron, Liberal Democrats' president and MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale

Tweeted: "Awful to hear the news that Scottish nationalist Margo MacDonald MSP has died. A real champion for Scotland and campaigner."

Sheila Gilmore, Labour MP for Edinburgh East

Tweeted: "Very sad news about Margo McDonald. She was always very friendly and helpful even when we were disagreeing. My thoughts with her family."

Ian Murray MP, Labour MP for Edinburgh South

Tweeted: "Scotland has lost a political giant today. Margo was always warm, helpful and encouraging. I always enjoyed her company."

Ian Stewart, editor of The Scotsman newspaper

Tweeted: "Sorry to hear of the death of Margo MacDonald, she was a great champion of the people, and a great character."