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?
Land and people are two defining features of the Highlands—lots of one without many of the other, to put it simply—so it’s hardly surprising that they featured in the maiden and valedictory speeches of a Highland representative such as Rob Gibson.
“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.”
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”.
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.
Dave Thompson ended his nine years in Parliament with the passing of the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, which he described as “the single most important bill” to be passed during his parliamentary career. To enhance the linguistic landscape of the debate, he brought to it a broader perspective, with a dash of poetic verve, by quoting Psalm 24:1, which says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it”.
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.