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”.
His first speech proper was made the next day, on 13 May 1999, in the debate on the selection of a nominee for First Minister—an historic moment, when the late Donald Dewar became Scotland’s first First Minister. Describing the Scottish Parliament as “a Parliament of minorities”, Mr Salmond touched on some of the main political issues of the day: tuition fees, the private finance initiative and proportional representation for local government elections. Perhaps the most enduring of the concerns that he addressed was the question whether the First Minister would be “Scotland’s servant” and “Scotland’s voice”, or would “play second fiddle to forces in London”.
Fast forward to his valedictory speech and we find ourselves at another historic debate deeply connected with the relationship between Holyrood and London—the debate on the legislative consent motion for the Scotland Bill. You might be puzzled to see Mr Salmond state, “In my first speech to this chamber, I refuted the idea that we were a divided Parliament representing a divided country. I suggested that we were not divided but diverse.” In fact, he made those comments in his first speech as First Minister designate in the Holyrood chamber. To use the words of the current First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, Mr Salmond was “leaving the Scottish Parliament for the second time”: he had stood down as an MSP in 2001, but was re-elected in 2007, from when he served uninterrupted until the end of session 4.
To quote Nicola Sturgeon again, whether those will be his last maiden and valedictory speeches at Holyrood “remains to be seen”.
by Andy Philip, Official Reporter