End of term picks

Each week, three of the Official Report’s team of reporters and sub-editors bring you a selection of parliamentary highlights from the week just gone …

On Tuesday, the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee took evidence on waste in Scotland, which presented us with one of the few occasions on which it could justifiably be said that members talked rubbish. Finlay Carson elicited a few laughs (and possibly a groan or two) when he offered to “compact” his questions “to take out some of the wastage.” Members spoke to representatives from local authorities, Zero Waste Scotland, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the private sector. Scotland’s target of recycling 70 per cent of its waste by 2021 was a hot topic, as was the ban on biodegradable municipal waste going to landfill that will come into force on 1 January 2021. Both panels stressed that there are many challenges ahead, but there are “grounds for optimism”, as Martin Grey from Viridor said when he discussed the consumer-driven shift away from black plastic packaging (which is unrecyclable) in the food industry.

In a week that saw the start of the Brexit negotiations, the Finance and Constitution Committee took evidence from two constitutional law experts, Professor Alan Page and Professor Stephen Tierney, on the use of the legislative consent mechanism—otherwise known as the Sewel convention—with regard to the great repeal bill and its aftermath. The convener, Bruce Crawford, admitted at one point that the discussion was getting into “dancing on the head of a pin” territory, but he stressed that such issues could take on importance, particularly in light of the fact that, as Professor Tierney pointed out, there would be more than 12,000 European regulations to deal with in the event of Brexit. In any case, the witnesses agreed that what had to be avoided after Brexit was “legislative ping-pong” or some kind of “war of attrition” between the Scottish Government and the UK Government—and, indeed, between all the UK Governments and legislatures—in respect of legislation that would have to be put in place and suggested that better joint working and better intergovernmental relationships would be needed.

On Wednesday, MSPs debated motor neurone disease (MND) global awareness day. Christina McKelvie—one of several members with family or friends who have been affected by what she described as a “cruel” disease—opened the debate by noting that, “in the face of cruelty, we find community.” In the week when Scottish rugby legend Doddie Weir announced that he has been diagnosed with MND, his friend Brian Whittle made a heartfelt speech about the condition. Kezia Dugdale, who spoke earlier this year about her friend the MND campaigner Gordon Aikman, mentioned that the little zebrafish, which lots of us keep in tanks at home, is being used in research to find a cure for MND. Finally, noting the personal nature of some of the speeches, Deputy Presiding Officer Christine Grahame observed that MSPs’ contributions had shown “the Parliament to the public in a different light.”



Languages of Oaths

It would be fair to say that the official reporting team is a lover of language. We work with it every day and relish all of its complexities and proclivities. In the Official Report we publish English and Gaelic when spoken and we publish the simultaneous or offered translation for all other languages. We can cover quite a wide range of languages ourselves. The team speaks Gaelic, Scots, French, Spanish, German, Afrikaans, Punjabi, Russian, Chinese, Swedish, Norwegian, Italian, Japanese and of course English. And our publication and public information team manages a contract to supply interpreters and translators of other languages when required.

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Getting ready to speak in the Chamber

The Official Report welcomes all MSPs newly elected to the Scottish Parliament. It’ll be a few days before you have to grapple with your first speech in the Scottish Parliament so let us give you a head start. The whip tells you it will be in a debate on the common agricultural policy. What now?

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Goodbye Mary Scanlon

“I thought that I would keep the tears until the end.” So began Mary Scanlon’s valedictory speech, following her announcement that she would step down at the end of session 4. She had served as an MSP since the new Scottish Parliament was established in 1999, albeit with a one-year hiatus when she stood down to contest the Moray by-election in 2006.

She painted a vivid picture of the Parliament’s first day:

“I was marching in between Alex Salmond and Tommy Sheridan. I do not think that any of us could forget that opening day, with Sheena Wellington singing, “A Man’s a Man for A That”.

Her continuing enthusiasm for the Parliament and its work was evident, even after 17 years:

“I still feel excited about coming here. I still feel excited about going to committees.”

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Goodbye Alex Salmond

Undoubtedly the most prominent MSP standing down at this election is former First Minister Alex Salmond. Mr Salmond’s first recorded utterance in the Scottish Parliament was not a speech as such, but a comment made while taking the oath at the beginning of session 1 about “the Scottish constitutional tradition of the sovereignty of the people”.

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Goodbye Malcolm Chisholm

Malcolm Chisholm, who stood down this year, had been the MSP for Edinburgh North and Leith since the Scottish Parliament’s inception in 1999, and prior to that he was elected to the House of Commons as MP for Edinburgh Leith in 1992, then MP for Edinburgh North and Leith in 1997. The fact that he served his constituency for 24 years is testament to the esteem in which he was held by the people of Leith and its surrounding areas.

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