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Colleagues from across party divide pay tribute to Margo MacDonald

They came from varied sources but all were heartfelt.

sweeT VICTORY: Savouring the moment, Margo waves to cheering supporters after winning the Govan by-election in 1973.
sweeT VICTORY: Savouring the moment, Margo waves to cheering supporters after winning the Govan by-election in 1973.

Tributes were paid across the political spectrum and both sides of the Scottish independence divide to nationalist veteran Margo MacDonald after her death on Friday at the age of 70.

First Minister Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP, hailed her as "one of the great rallying figures of Scottish nationalism", while Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie spoke of her "vibrancy and her passion".

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said she was one of the "biggest personalities and ­characters of Scottish modern political life" and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said she was "independent of thought, independent of mind and independent of spirit".

Her death came peacefully, surrounded by her family at her Edinburgh home yesterday afternoon. She had been battling Parkinson's disease for many years.

Friends said that after a slow and steady decline, her health began deteriorating rapidly on Thursday morning.

Ms MacDonald's husband Jim Sillars, the former SNP deputy leader, was with her to the last. He had cancelled engagements in recent days to be with her in her final hours.

A memorial service is planned for the end of the month.

In a statement, 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."

Within minutes of the ­statement being issued, tributes poured in. Mr Salmond said: "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 Secretary 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."

Gordon Wilson, former SNP leader and colleague, said: "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."

Blair Jenkins, chief executive of Yes Scotland, said there would never be another politician like Ms MacDonald, who had been held in great affection and respect by everyone who came in contact with her, regardless of their political views.

"She was a very distinguished parliamentarian but, much more than that, Margo will be remembered for her great humanity and concern for her fellow citizens. She was one of the best-loved champions of the national movement for independence, a cause for which she campaigned vigorously and very passionately for all of her adult and political life."

Better Together's Alistair Darling said: "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."

Ms Lamont said: "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."

Ms Davidson said: "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."

Scottish Liberal Democrat 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."

Mr Harvie, who will now take forward her Bill to legalise assisted suicide, said: "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 campaigners on all sides will recognise Margo's contribution to Scottish public life, her vibrancy and her passion."

Grahame Smith, Scottish Trades Union Congress general secretary, said: "She was a passionate fighter for all she believed, often taking on issues that others 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."

Councillor Andrew Burns, leader of Edinburgh City ­Council, said: "Edinburgh and indeed Scotland have today lost one of our finest public servants. She was truly one of a kind, both passionate and courageous."

David O'Neill, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said: "I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Margo MacDonald. A character who will be sorely missed by all those who knew her and a real loss to Scottish public life."

Bruce Beveridge, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said:"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."

As an individual Independent MSP representing Lothian there is no-one to replace her automatically at Holyrood under the usual party list system and her seat will remain vacant until the next ­election in 2016.

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