Margo MacDonald, Scottish Independence Campaigner, Dies at 70

Margo MacDonald, a campaigner for independence for Scotland who served in both the Scottish and U.K. parliaments during a political career spanning four decades, has died at age 70.

An independent lawmaker in the Edinburgh legislature since falling out with the Scottish National Party, MacDonald had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease. She died at her home this afternoon, her husband, lawmaker Jim Sillars, said in a statement reported by the British Broadcasting Corp.

She was “a great rallying figure for Scottish independence,” First Minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond said on Twitter. MacDonald “played a profound role” in the “home rule journey,” he said.

MacDonald’s death comes a little over five months before Scotland holds a referendum on independence, with polls suggesting voters will decide to stay a part of the U.K. Even so, enough voters say they are undecided to potentially swing the Sept. 18 referendum in favor of her lifelong ambition.

Nicknamed the “blonde bombshell” at the time, she shot to prominence in 1973 at the age of 30 by winning the Glasgow Govan special election for the SNP, taking a Westminster seat in what was a Labour Party stronghold. She later became a lawmaker in the semi-autonomous Scottish Parliament when it was set up in 1999, again for the SNP, before being re-elected as an independent following internal criticism for her refusal to toe the party line.

Hibs Fan

As well as politics, MacDonald worked as a reporter and broadcaster on current affairs in the 1980s. On her profile page on the Scottish Parliament’s website, she listed her interests as Edinburgh’s Hibernian soccer club, country music, old movies and her 10 grandchildren.

She recently had been campaigning to legalize assisted suicide in Scotland.

“Her legacy is that she will continue to inspire and encourage people in Scotland and far beyond to get involved in public life, and help make a lasting difference,” the SNP said in an e-mail. “That is what Margo did.”

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael praised her political conviction, saying “Scottish politics will be poorer, less colorful and less interesting” without her, the BBC reported on its website.

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