The Future of Scotland

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 9:49 am on 29th March 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat 9:49 am, 29th March 2007

It has been an interesting debate thus far. As I look around the chamber, I wonder who the floating voters are whom we are trying to influence. It is more a question of spotting who the best cheerleader is for the main speaker. I will study the tapes carefully after the debate.

The SNP seems to be running auditions for promotion. Alex Neil has already been particularly keen this morning. For the Tories, after last Monday, there is just a sense of relief that Ms Goldie's megaphone was switched on so that the voice of Scotland could be heard.

We had a similar debate at the end of the previous session in 2003, and there was a great sense that everybody was anxious to get out of the chamber and get on with the campaign. Before we do that, it is worth looking at Scotland's place in the world. Who could have imagined that, in 2007, on the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union, we would be about to start the third session of restored home rule in Scotland? The prospect seemed distant and unlikely for so long, even in our lifetimes.

We should look, too, at the changes that we have seen around the planet since I was first elected, more than 20 years ago, as a young Grampian regional councillor. Who would have believed the changes that have taken place? The iron curtain came down and the cold war ended. Lech Walesa became the President of Poland. The liberal Václav Havel, who was imprisoned under the communists, became the President of Czechoslovakia. Nelson Mandela became the President of South Africa. The home of the Warsaw pact is now in NATO, and Romania and Bulgaria are part of the European Union. Finally, just a short distance across the water from Scotland, Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams have jointly announced devolved Government in Northern Ireland. They have shaken off the negativity of much of their past and they are building a great future for their countries.