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 I've listened to a host of people who remember her from her school days there. They've 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 Parkinson's 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: http://tinyurl.com/qhqxebu
Margo's charismatic 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 I'll 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 isn't. 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 last May
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 you'd like to help her raise more, go here: http://tinyurl.com/pe7sbcr
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 style...
Amy Carmichael greets the First Minister with a High Five!
Amy isn't completely out of the woods but she is in remission and it's lovely to see that hair bounce back too!
We mounted a great Jobfayre in Larkhall's Trinity Church on Friday past. It was a great success, introducing around 200 visitors to companies like Tesco, Scottish Gas and the Fire Service.
These opportunities to meet potential employers on an informal basis can make a huge difference to people's lives. I've 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 international aid.
Speaking in the debate, I wanted to emphasise the idea that global citizenship isn't 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 "into deepening and consolidating relationships with friends and partners, new and old, across the world and, through this, expanding opportunities for people and businesses in Scotland.
You can read the full report of the debate here: http://tinyurl.com/q7eo3rn
Wouldn't 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."