The Future of Scotland

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:09 am on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent 10:09 am, 29th March 2007

I thank you, Presiding Officer, and Ms Robison. I regret to say that I have to leave soon and I apologise to members who will speak after me.

I agree with Nicol Stephen that we should look forward, not back, but I ask my colleagues in all parties and none to look beyond the immediate future. During the election, policy differences will be emphasised and exaggerated and intentions will be questioned and misrepresented. It will be all good, clean fun or dirty-dog politicking—take your pick. However, after the parties have done their best to defend their corners, perhaps creating bitterness and division among themselves in doing so, the members elected to the new session of Parliament must quickly find a collegiate way of working, for the sake of Scotland.

The fault line of the constitutional question is already dominating debate, but we must take heed of our fellow Scots' perceptions of what the election is about. If we, as professional politicians, and, in the main, members of political parties, judge that Scots' priorities are different from ours, we must be big enough to admit that and act on the mandates that electors give us, rather than claim to have won the argument on the basis of the votes of fewer than 40 per cent of the people who voted.

I think that members will find that there is a general desire on the part of people in Scotland for the Scottish Parliament to be proactive in improving and governing aspects of life in Scotland over which we have no control, such as broadcasting, or over which we have limited decision-making powers, such as drugs policy or the representation of our interests in the European Union. The details are not all that important at this stage; what is important is how we go about meeting the hopes and expectations of Scots, who, according to opinion polls, look to the Parliament for leadership and the strategies and policies that will make Scotland prosper.

That is my plea to the members who will return in the next session. I ask them to work on building on the common ground that is occupied by the electorate. This institution is the means by which we can advance the governance of Scotland, enhancing our statutory powers and ensuring stable administration and government while we do so—as our fellow countrymen and women would prefer.

There are any number of ways in which we could structure and operate a constitutional unit or convention. The important factor is the open-mindedness of those who take part and their appreciation of the need to reflect the wish among Scots that the Parliament should be the voice of the people, not the voice of any one political party.

During the next session of Parliament attempts will be made to introduce a new constitution for the EU, and this morning we learned about fundamental changes that are planned for the Home Office. Such issues will be for the Parliament to resolve and I think that the parties represented here will have much in common, rather than great differences between them.

Members know of my commitment to the Scottish Parliament assuming sovereign powers. However, for more than 30 years I have also advocated a new intergovernmental relationship between all the countries and regions of the UK and Ireland. I think that I first wrote about the social union of the UK as the union that would survive the modernisation of the machinery of government in 1974. I see no reason to change that analysis. The ties that bind us are emotional. The Scottish Parliament offers a way of marrying the refinement of our powers with the maintenance of the social union. Whether Annabel Goldie is right or I am right in interpreting the wishes of Scots, this Parliament—rather than one party—is the institution that must determine the future of Scotland.