MSP Margo MacDonald has died today. The news, which shocked the world of Scottish politics and beyond, was announced this afternoon by her husband Jim Sillars.
Mr Sillars 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.
“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.”
The MSP, an icon of the nationalist movement, had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
Margo MacDonald rose to prominence after winning the Glasgow Govan Westminster by-election for the SNP in 1973. She later became deputy leader of the SNP and served as an MSP in the Scottish Parliament.
This evening tributes poured in from political allies and opponents alike.
First Minister Alex Salmond paid tribute to her life and career.
“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.
“The condolences of myself and Moira go to Jim, Zoe, Petra and all of Margo’s family.”
Gil Paterson MSP, commenting on behalf of the SNP Scottish Parliament Group, said:
“All of us in the SNP group are deeply saddened at the passing of Margo MacDonald.
“Margo has been a leading light in Scotland for over 40 years and an inspiration to people everywhere – her legacy is that she will continue inspire and encourage people in Scotland and far beyond to get involved in public life, and help make a lasting difference. That is what Margo did.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to her husband Jim Sillars, and her daughters Petra and Zoe at this desperately sad time.”
Green MSP Patrick Harvie, 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.”
Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick described Ms MacDonald as “brave, passionate and committed”.
She added: “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.”
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.”
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.”
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson described Ms MacDonald as being “a huge figure in Scottish politics and a complete one-off”.
She added: “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.”
There will be no by-election held, due to Ms MacDonald having been elected as an independent MSP on the regional list.