What can I say? What can
any of us say? Margo MacDonald, lifelong supporter of independence,
outspoken, forthright, without guile, died on Friday. Her departure left
all of us in the Parliament - as well as the thousands of people whose
lives she touched - feeling a huge sense of loss.
Margo was at home with
her family and passed away at ten past one in the afternoon, surrounded
by the people she most loved in the world.
She was a Hamilton
girl, you know, and during these last days Iíve listened to a host of
people who remember her from her school days there. Theyíve told me
stories about her school life and the swimming team she was on. Indeed,
her first career was as a PE teacher.
Margo MacDonald MSP
Margo was diagnosed with
Parkinsonís Disease in 2002 and her health gradually deteriorated over
the years since. But being Margo, she fought on regardless and never for
a moment lost her wry sense of humour. You can watch one of her last big
appearances here at the Independence Rally in Edinburgh last September:
presence touched everyone who met her. Whether they agreed with her
politics or not, they applauded her personality and her commitment.
Margo won the Glasgow Govan Westminster by-election for the SNP in 1973
when I was but a bairn. Until then, that was a seat that epitomised the
diehard Glasgow Labour stronghold.
In more recent years,
Margo felt the SNP had become a bit too top-heavy for her liking. She
left the party but continued so serve as an independent MSP getting
elected in 2003, 2007 and 2011.
There have been hundreds
of tributes across the media, on Twitter and Facebook, but I think Iíll
leave it to her husband, Jim Sillars, himself no shrinking violet, who
adored his wife to say what speaks for the nation:
"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."
This might start out
sounding like another mournful tale, so I am delighted to be able to say
that in fact it isnít. Some of you may recall my writing about little
Amy Carmichael just less than a year ago.
Amy, from Stonehouse, was
having treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. She went through
painful and distressing intensive chemotherapy then, and she had to wave
goodbye to her gorgeous, long blond hair.
Little Amy Carmichael
Far from giving up, this tenacious little
girl set about raising funds for research into blood cancers like hers.
She has now raised almost £10,000 and if youíd like to help her raise
more, go here:
So I was thrilled to bits to invite her to
the Scottish Parliament last week where she had a word with the First
Minister is her own inimitable styleÖ
Amy Carmichael greets the First Minister with a High Five!
Amy isnít completely out of the woods but
she is in remission and itís lovely to see that hair bounce back too!
We mounted a great Jobfayre in Larkhallís
Trinity Church on Friday past. It was a great success, introducing
around 200 visitors to companies like Tesco, Scottish Gas and the Fire
These opportunities to meet potential
employers on an informal basis can make a huge difference to peopleís
lives. Iíve seen the results. When you connect the skills, talents and
potential of our folk with the skills needs of employers, then you find
a natural synergy.
A big thank you to all of the employers who
came along to the event and to all the job hunters, I sincerely hope you
have found a lead that you can follow up.
Greeting employers and job seekers in Larkhall
Scotland: A good global citizen
Our External Affairs Minister, Humza Yousaf,
headed a great debate in the Chamber on Tuesday examining what the idea
of global citizenship means for Scotland.
As an independent country, we will be so
much better able to progress our position in this context. As things
stand, we have been forced into illegal wars, we have nuclear weapons
beside our largest city, have no control whatever over defence policy or
immigration, and very little over what we can do in the way of
Speaking in the debate, I wanted to
emphasise the idea that global citizenship isnít about some kind of
charitable benevolence but about human rights, inter-dependence,
participation, taking responsibility.
We have no formal voice
on the international stage. We saw that very clearly in the Iraq war and
we are seeing it now in relationships with the rest of the EU. In an
independent Scotland, we can put forward our views and have a voice at
the leading world discussion fora - political, civil or across the
international opinion forming organisations of human rights, academia,
international aid and disaster relief for example.
Independence will give us
the power to do things differently. Instead of projecting the
isolationist agenda that has taken over in Westminster, we will be
directing our international efforts ďinto deepening and consolidating
relationships with friends and partners, new and old, across the world
and, through this, expanding opportunities for people and businesses in
You can read the full
report of the debate here:
Wouldnít that be a nice address?
Chantinghall Gardens? It sounds rather gentle and suggest birds singing
in the trees!
I was delighted to join my colleague,
Margaret Burgess MSP, Minister for Housing and Welfare, for the official
opening of Chantinghall Gardens in Hamilton.
Housing Minister, Margaret Burgess MSP (left) with Hanover Housing
chairperson, Bunty Fowler, cutting the ribbon at Chantinghall Gardens
This is a really delightful small
development of 13 properties for rent to older people. Speaking to some
of the residents, it was clear that they love their homes. This is
exactly the kind of building we need to encourage so that older people
can stay in their homes leading independent lives in a great community.
Bunty Fowler, Chairperson of Hanover, said "This is a partnership
project between Hanover and South Lanarkshire Council and a lot of hard
work went into the planning. Hanover has an excellent working
relationship with South Lanarkshire Council, going back many years and,
as a result, in addition to this new development we have been able to
provide five very sheltered housing developments (two in Hamilton), two
sheltered developments and 24 amenity properties.
"I was here almost exactly two years ago when Keith Brown and myself cut
the first 'sod' to mark the start of the building work. It's my pleasure
to welcome everyone here again today and I'd like to thank the Housing
Minister Margaret Burgess and Christina McKelvie MSP for taking time out
of their busy schedules to attend the ceremony."