The hand of history

Official reporters have the privilege of a front-row seat at what sometimes turn out to be historic events. It may be obvious: the very first meeting of the Scottish Parliament; the first meeting after the referendum. At other times, history unfolds more quietly: the slow accumulation of parliamentary activity that led to the smoking ban in Scotland looked pretty unpromising at first. This week, we will see mainly the first kind of history in the making: Alex Salmond has made his last First Minister’s statement to the Parliament; Nicola Sturgeon will become Scotland’s first female First Minister. History was very much on Mr Salmond’s mind as he addressed the chamber this afternoon.

In amongst the high dignity of the chamber, the scrutiny work of committees continues – slower-burning, but no less influential. The Finance Committee continues its work on further fiscal devolution and last week discussed with Professor Jim Gallagher the recent history of the referendum and what the near future might look like. To offer an analysis of union, Professor Gallagher resorted to a short history lesson on the union between Scotland and England in 1707. Incidentally, the record of the last meeting of the Scottish Parliament in 1707 can be read on the wonderful “Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707” website. I wonder what the recorders of the time made of their ringside seats.