Scotland mourns Margo MacDonald MSP

Contains Scottish Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Scottish Parliament Licence v1.0.There won’t be a dry eye anywhere in Scottish politics this afternoon. Margo MacDonald, the spirited, warm-hearted, funny, plain-speaking, independent minded MSP for Lothians died this lunchtime.

Margo shot to prominence after winning the Govan by-election in 1973. Although she lost her seat in the General Election 2 months later, she made an impact on Scottish politics. She never returned to Westminster, but has been one of the real stars of the Scottish Parliament over the last 15 years. She was never scared to speak her mind and in the first term caused great angst amongst the SNP whips with her rebelliousness. She was punished by being placed too low on the SNP list to be re-elected. So she stood as an Independent and was re-elected 3 times, a testament to the affection in which she was regarded by everyone. If you talked about Margo, everyone knew who you meant, whether they were interested in politics or not.

She was committed to many of the issues close to my heart, LGBT equality, sex workers’ rights and assisted dying. Her initial attempt to legislate on the latter was rejected but she had recently introduced her Assisted Suicide Bill in this session of Parliament.

I was lucky enough to be in her company a few times and she was always warm, generous and kind. Her independence of mind and commitment to her causes won her a particularly special place in Scotland’s heart. We are so going to miss her.

Her husband, Jim Sillars’ tribute is heartbreakingly beautiful:

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. 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.

“Whenever she saw injustice, she would not rest until it was sorted.”

Tributes from key Liberal Democrats will be added as they come in. There will be many memories from all parties and none. Please feel free to add your own in the comments.

Scottish Leader Willie Rennie said:

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.

Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael said:

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.
My sincere condolences go to all her family.

Liam McArthur, Liberal Democrat MSP for Orkney, had this to say:

There are so many things I’ll miss about Margo, not the least of which are the conspiratorial chats over a drink in the parliament bar, nicknamed Margo’s. She combined phenomenal charisma with the easiest of personal touches, and was the most impressive campaigner. Scottish politics is quite a bit poorer and a lot less colourful for her passing. My thoughts are with Jim and the rest of her family.

Photo of Margo McDonald above: Contains Scottish Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Scottish Parliament Licence v1.0.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Robin Bennett 4th Apr '14 - 5:29pm

    Thank you for a great tribute, Caron. Anyone who could be re-elected three times as an Independent, and in Edinburgh of all places, had to be someone special. The whole of Scotland is the poorer. I hope the Assisted Suicide Bill can still make progress – it would be a great tribute to her if it was passed.

  • Alex Dingwall 4th Apr '14 - 6:56pm

    A great tribute Caron. Like so many who joined the SNP in the late 70s I adored her, forever inspirational, funny, supportive , independent and above all principled .

    Like so many today I feel life is just so unfair to rob us of her. My thoughts and prayers are with Jim and her family.

  • Simon Banks 7th Apr '14 - 8:43am

    A wonderful woman. I celebrate her life.

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