Oh how I miss Margo MacDonald.
Sometimes when all the political events of the day mount up, when the horrors of world events feel so very dark and insurmountable, I wonder what she would make of it all.
For she was a woman of steel who always had a way of getting to the heart of what really mattered.
Often with a pithy remark and a G&T.
I can’t profess to have known her all that well but we worked in the same building no more than 10 metres apart for seven years.
Forgive the detail, but I quite literally couldn’t pee without her knowing about it.
And she knew everything.
For many of her later years in active politics, she relied on a mobility scooter to get around the Parliament.
As if she wasn’t already a formidable enough figure, the mobility scooter allowed her to create a mini road block where she would command your attention.
Every single occasion was a pleasure and the vast majority were filled with sage counsel.
She’d stop me in my tracks and say things like “Just remember, your enemies are behind you as much as they are in front of you.”
It was one part political game designed to gently spook me / one part astute observation, shared with a sister.
Margo will be remembered for her causes
She was so much more than wise counsel though, she was a firebrand figure.
One of the few politicians recognised across the land simply by their first name.
A leading light of the nationalist movement, she was also a constant advocate for physical activity.
As a former PE teacher herself she remained passionate about sport even when her physical health began to fail her.
However, it’s for her work on assisted dying that I’ll remember her most.
Work that remains unfinished but feels now like it’s edging ever closer to reality.
She died in April 2014, just months before the independence referendum she’d campaigned all her life for.
It was full of colour, both in terms of the political spectrum represented and the dress of the guests.
We were all encouraged to wear our brightest gear and if it came from the QVC catalogue with matching earrings, even better.
I wonder now whether any other political figure could bring so many people together in good heart during such divisive times.
My own regret on her assisted dying bill
When she introduced her own Private Members bill for Assisted Dying, she convinced me to sign it so that it could be heard before the whole of the Parliament chamber.
She needed 18 MSPs to back her, from at least three different political parties.
No mean feat for someone who had no party of their own.
But she was right and very persuasive.
She understood the law needed to change, that too many people were having really undignified deaths in extreme pain.
People who wanted to die but couldn’t do so without putting their nearest and dearest in deep legal jeopardy.
Resorting to selling their houses for plane tickets to Switzerland when what they really wanted was greater control over their own life and death at home.
The case was and is compelling.
I believed in it and I backed it.
The bill process is very slow though and by the time it made it to the floor of the Scottish Parliament, after Margo’s death and in the name of Patrick Harvie, I was a party leader.
For a multitude of really weak reasons, I voted against it.
In all honesty, I was persuaded that the bill was unpopular with the public and that if I voted for it too, it would damage my party and my leadership.
I took the easy path out and I can’t tell you how much I regret that now.
I’m also not the only one.
Baroness Davidson speaks in support – her maiden speech.
Speaks about voting against assisted dying previously.
"It felt like cowardice."
Going through IVF meant she had such control at the start of life.
"We need this agency at the end of life."
— Dignity in Dying (@dignityindying) October 22, 2021
Both spoke of how their own lived experience had shaped their views.
Both are now strongly in favour of a bill which would empower people to make their own choices in their dying days.
A chance for us all to have our say
The truth is that public opinion is well ahead of our elected politicians on this issue.
The polling around assisted dying is remarkable because it’s both so high and so consistently good.
Left or right, yes or no, leave or remain, it’s one of the few issues which unites us.
Today I am launching proposals for a new Members Bill to change the law on assisted dying in Scotland.
I believe that the time is right for Scotland to look again at providing people with more choice, safely and compassionately, at the end of life.
— Liam McArthur MSP (@Liam4Orkney) September 23, 2021
The bill is coming back to the Scottish Parliament soon under the guidance of the Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur.
Every single one of us has the chance to air our views in the public consultation.
It’s open now at assisteddying.scot
Be sure to have your say by December 22. Margo is watching.