Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:14 pm on 18th May 1999.

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Photo of Dr Winnie Ewing Dr Winnie Ewing Scottish National Party 3:14 pm, 18th May 1999

I have two questions for Mr Fergusson. First, what is a plenary session? Is it when the whole Parliament is here, or is it every time we are here? Perhaps we could have that cleared up. Secondly, does he accept that non-denominational includes interfaith? I agree with the interfaith proposal.

By all means let us rule out the House of Commons model. I was there for eight years. Lord James Douglas-Hamilton said that there was no compulsion to attend prayers, but I found that there was: if I wanted a seat, I had to pray. That was not a very dignified situation, but there were not enough seats to go around. We are blessed here-we all have a seat and a desk-so that will not happen.

There were some comic elements at the House of Commons, the first of which was that we were locked in to pray. The first time I went to a question time, I found everybody queueing. When I asked old Mr Emrys Hughes what was happening, he said that members had been locked in to pray. That sounded very strange.

The second comic element was that members turned their backs on one another during prayers, as if there was something shameful in praying. The third comic element was that the prayer was always the same:

"Let all the nations rejoice and be glad."

I liked it, but it was the same every day.

We should have a new model and we should embrace all the cultures and religions that have chosen Scotland as their home.