Margo throws hat into ring for four more years at Holyrood

INDEPENDENT Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald today announced she will stand for re-election to the Scottish Parliament next year.

She said there was still plenty of work to be done, she was enjoying the freedom from party constraints and she felt fitter than she did last time round.

Ms MacDonald, who will be 64 next year, plans to stand once again on the Lothians list, where she won more than ten per cent of the vote in 2003. And she named health campaigns, more PE teachers, re-examination of drugs policy, seeing through the law change on prostitution and winning fairer funding for Edinburgh as among her priorities. Ms MacDonald has been a member of the Scottish Parliament since the first elections in 1999, when she was top of the Lothians list for the SNP.

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But she won re-election in 2003 as an independent after the Nationalists effectively dumped her by pushing her down to fifth place on the top-up list.

And today she made clear she had no regrets. "It has been very liberating," she said. "I have been able to work with such a wide range of people - people I might not have had the chance to work with as closely before because party affiliation got in the way."

She also brought together Holyrood's five independent MSPs to form a recognised group so they can have a say in the running of the parliament. She said: "I have enjoyed working with the other independents. That's not to say we all agree on everything - we don't. But we all agree on the need for people in the parliament who don't have to compromise on what they do because of the party line."

Ms MacDonald revealed nearly four years ago that she suffers from Parkinson's Disease.

Today she said the illness was under control. "I'm very fortunate in that it appears to be progressing very slowly and I don't have a severe case. I'm probably fitter than I was at the last election."

Ms MacDonald is a former PE teacher and the need to bolster physical education in schools has been one of the causes she has repeatedly raised. "I think I can claim a bit of the credit for having shifted the Executive's policy and attitudes on the importance of PE on the timetable," she said.

Now she wants older people with conditions such as arthritis to be able to get exercise classes on prescription. If re-elected, she said she would consider setting up a cross-party group on long-term conditions, such as asthma, ME and multiple sclerosis.

Ms MacDonald's Bill to allow prostitution tolerance zones led to the Executive's proposal, expected to be passed later this year, to scrap the law against soliciting and create a new offence, which would apply equally to those buying and selling sex.

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Ms MacDonald has also campaigned for a fresh look at drugs.

"We need to look in a radically different way at how we have constructed our drugs policy. That's unfinished business," she said. [email protected]

Who would you like to see stand for Holyrood?

Alex Paterson, 59, joiner, Lochend Road: "Menzies Campbell - he's a great guy. Sean Connery would make sure everything was Scottish and done right."

Evelyn Robertson, 65, retired, Orchard Bank: " I'd like to see Alex Salmond leading the Scots to independence."

John Rowan, 53, freelance consultant, Dudley Avenue: "Hearts chairman George Foulkes is a respectable figure and well liked across the board."

Euan Currie, 22, student, Pleasance: "If Karl Marx could come back, that would be funny. An outspoken Irishman with a good outlook on life could fit in as they already have some English people. As long as they live in Scotland, that's fine."

Sharon Mallon, 30, student, Cowgate: "I think it would be good to have someone forthright who could shake it up a bit. They need a way to make it interesting to young people."

Anna Cosgrave, 24, computer programmer, Gorgie: "I'd like to see Alex Salmond come to the Scottish Parliament.

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"His profile has been much lower here since he went down south and I think he is a great speaker who would make a much bigger contribution than most at Holyrood."

Who else should throw their hat in the ring for a Holyrood seat?

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