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.

It was fitting that Malcolm Chisholm’s final speech was in the stage 3 debate on the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Bill. He has been a prominent campaigner on domestic abuse and violence against women throughout his political career – indeed, when a debate on the subject took place in the Scottish Parliament, it was not uncommon for him to be the sole male MSP participating in it. In his final speech he referred to one of his first speeches as an MP, in which he highlighted the work of the Zero Tolerance campaign in Edinburgh and stressed the need to challenge men’s attitudes and focus on prevention.

Mr Chisholm never compromised his principles to toe the party line. To date, he is the only person to have resigned from office in both the UK and Scottish Governments. In 1997, he became the first minister to resign from Tony Blair’s Government when he stood down as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland in opposition to cuts to lone parent benefits. In 2006, he stood down as Minister for Communities after voting with the SNP against Jack McConnell’s Government over the renewal of Trident. However, he remained “completely united” with Labour on its other policies.

Malcolm Chisholm’s personal integrity and political pragmatism are one reason why he has been well respected by his colleagues from all parties. When the Deputy Presiding Officer, Elaine Smith MSP, introduced him for the last time, she said:

“Above all, Malcolm Chisholm is not just a politician but a parliamentarian—he has been a parliamentarian for all his long and distinguished political career.”

It is likely that he will miss the Scottish Parliament as much as it will miss him. In his closing remarks, he paid tribute to his staff, the Parliament’s staff and his MSP colleagues and made his views clear one last time when he said:

“I like the Westminster Parliament very much, but I have loved the Scottish Parliament.”

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