Friday, 4 April 2014

MARGO MacDONALD: One of Scotlands finest daughters

Scotland has today lost one of her finest daughters.
Margo MacDonald left her mark on Scottish life and then some. Born in Hamilton seventy years ago she was an extraordinary woman in the way working class Scots women truly are.
Who else could campaign and be recognised the length and breadth of Scotland using her first name alone? Who else could get elected to Holyrood three times running an Independent? Who else took up such 'unpopular' causes? Who else could carry herself with such dignity and fortitude during her prolonged and very public illness? Who else could get away with half the things she said and did? No-one.
Like millions of Scots I could relate to her. She was a very formidable public figure and yet at the same time she was one of us.
I was very fortunate to get to know her first as a fellow Lothian's MSP and thereafter as a friend and colleague in the Independence movement.
She helped me enormously. As an MSP she helped me steer my Bill to abolish NHS prescription charges through Parliament. And when you got to know her you realised just how extraordinary she was. All the SSP MSP's and our staff loved her. We would regularly seek her out for her wisdom, her experience, her rebelliousness, her candour and above all for that great - and widely underestimated - gift she had of putting people at their ease around her. She was great company and generously provided wise counsel to everyone. Moreover it was usually taken after all here was someone who had broken the mould of Scottish politics again and again.
I admired her for her bravery and her integrity above all. She took up causes no one else would. And like most rebels she was fearless when she needed to be. Her remarkable staff Peter and Mary were always very generous to the SSP too.
The Scottish Socialist Party will be forever in her debt not least because she was the only MSP to stand up against the lynch mob who expelled us from Holyrood and fined us £30,000 for protesting against attempts to prevent the democratic right to protest against the G8 leaders summit in Gleneagles in 2005. [The severest penalty meted out to any 'Parliamentarians' in Britain since the English Civil war incidentally]. In the face of a baying mob she insisted on our right to due process. She failed. We got no such thing, but it showed the towering strength of the woman she was in standing up for what was right and just.
And I loved the fact you could disagree with her and yet she would make sure it never became an impediment to your ongoing relationship with her. Many's the time she gave me advice and then respected my mistakes with patience and generosity of spirit.
I was with her for a few minutes on Tuesday evening at the house as I waited to take Jim to speak at an SSP public meeting in Govan. We talked about the referendum campaign and she was full of confidence in the people of Scotland voting Yes in September. She gave me advice on what I should say at the meeting and we said goodbye.
She was an inspiration to millions. And millions of us will miss her. The best way to repay her generosity to to help Jim, Zoe, Petra and all her family and friends through the tough days ahead without her.