Margo Awards to celebrate female activists

SHE burst on to the political scene with a ground-breaking by-election victory, was an influential voice inside the SNP for many years, served among the first MSPs after devolution and went on to be one of Scotland’s most respected politicians.

Margo Macdonald at the 2011 Scottish election count at Ingliston. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The late Margo MacDonald was a popular and principled figure – and now a new set of awards is being named in her honour.

Edinburgh Women for Independence (EWFI) is celebrating women’s achievements in Scottish politics by launching the “Margos”, which will be handed out next month to coincide with Ms MacDonald’s birthday.

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Bestselling author Sara Sheridan, one of the organisers, said: “We say, stuff the Oscars, it’s the Margos that count.”

The gongs are not for high-profile politicians but grassroots activists who seldom receive recognition. And instead of the familiar golden statues at the Oscars, the winners of the Margos will be presented with a Scottish-made brooch of silver and polished heather and a scroll which includes a reproduction of a miniature painting of Margo, pictured above.

“Margo always wore big scarves with a lovely brooch, so we thought this was very appropriate,” said Ms Sheridan. Those attending the event on April 18 – the day before Margo’s birthday – have been asked to wear a bright scarf to honour her legacy and love of accessories.

The all-women awards ceremony will take the form of an afternoon tea at the Serenity Cafe in the Old Town – “a community-run resource that would have been close to Margo’s heart”.

A special “Margo-rita” cocktail will be served – containing Earl Grey tea, passion fruit and lemon juice – and male political activists in kilts will act as waiters for the occasion.

“We’re expecting lots of fun, some music and plenty of high spirits,” said Ms Sheridan.

She said there had been a significant shift in attitudes and women were much more accepted in politics now.

“Women are part of the mainstream political scene in a way we were not a couple of years ago,” she said.

The author pointed to observations by Cambridge professor Mary Beard, who wrote that women were only expected to talk about “women’s issues” like childcare and would come in for flack if they ventured on to other territory, such as economic policy.

Ms Sheridan said: “That’s changed in Scotland. We have a female First Minister, a 50-50 Cabinet and more women actively engaged in politics. Women want to get involved.”

Margo’s husband, Jim Sillars, said he had no hesitation in agreeing the new awards should be named in her honour.

“It simply underlines what I have discovered since Margo’s death – that she was and remains an inspiration to lots of people, men as well as women.”

Margo’s granddaughter, Josephine, a student and singer-songwriter who campaigned with the pro-independence National Collective during the referendum, will be among those attending the awards.