Goodbye Jamie McGrigor

“So, farewell Scottish Parliament and godspeed.”

Thus ended the parliamentary career of Jamie McGrigor, who has been one of the Scottish Parliament’s more colourful characters since its inception in May 1999. It was fitting that his final speech was on the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, given his long-standing interest in and wealth of experience of rural and agricultural matters.

For many years, he was the Scottish Conservatives’ spokesman on fisheries and it was in that capacity that he came to the attention of the former parliamentary sketch writer for The Scotsman, Rab McNeil, who, in his report card on members at the end of session 1, described him as a “Dissolute-looking aristo with a penchant for prawns” but also observed “Heart’s in the right place. Cares for the Highlands.”

His first speech to Parliament was on a fisheries-related matter—a piece of subordinate legislation to define the adjacent waters boundaries between Scotland and England. In that debate, he said, “Recent events have been a slap in the face for Scottish fishermen”, and he remained a passionate defender of fishermen’s interests throughout his time in Parliament.

Never one to take himself too seriously, in the Parliament’s early years, in a debate on a draft code of conduct for MSPs in early 2000, he joked about the official reporters habit of requesting speaking notes from members: “I remember the horror after my maiden speech when a brown envelope was handed to me. That dread was tempered by finding no crisp notes other than a request for me to put my own notes inside it.”

As he noted in his farewell speech, four of his six children were born during his time in Parliament, and he thanked those “six wonderful children” and his wife Emma for their patience and forbearance, remarking “They have been my rock and I will always be very grateful for their love and support.”

He referred to his children in a members’ business debate that he led on another subject close to his heart—depopulation in Argyll and Bute, where he has a farm and a fishery—in January 2015: “I have had six children in Argyll and Bute. It is one thing to have them, but it is quite another to keep them there.”

He successfully introduced the Scottish Register of Tartans Bill. Speaking in the stage 3 debate on the bill in October 2008 shortly prior to its passing, he said: “I have long believed that it is inherently right that we should have a publicly held, statutory register of tartans in Scotland to preserve and promote one of our national iconic products.”

As the Presiding Officer said, “The Parliament will be much the poorer without Jamie McGrigor.”

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