Motion of Thanks

– in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 12:00 pm, 29th March 2007

The next item of business is consideration of motion S2M-5789, in the name of Jack McConnell, which is a motion of thanks to the Presiding Officer.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour 12:30 pm, 29th March 2007

Before I address the motion of thanks to the Presiding Officer, I propose a vote of thanks to some of our other distinguished Scottish parliamentarians and colleagues.

I pay tribute to Susan Deacon, John Home Robertson, Janis Hughes and Kate Maclean, from my own party. Both Janis Hughes and Kate Maclean have contributed to the work of the committees of the Parliament. Kate Maclean has represented the city of Dundee for many years, as leader of the council and as an MSP. Janis Hughes brought an expertise in health matters to the Parliament and its committees, which has made a difference to the decisions that we have made.

There are many people in the Labour Party who remember John Home Robertson, at our party conference in 1976, moving the motion that committed us to devolution. The legacy of John P Mackintosh has rested well on his shoulders, and he has proved to be a fitting successor to him. It is right and proper that he has served in the Parliament.

Susan Deacon was the Parliament's first Minister for Health and Community Care, and she served in that role not just with distinction but with real success.

I wish all four of them all the best for the future and pay tribute to their contribution to our work over the past eight years.

In the spirit of all-party consensus, I will mention other members who are leaving the Parliament. Although Labour members may have enjoyed some of Bruce McFee's comments in the first session of Parliament more than some SNP members did, he has made a real contribution to the Parliament and I wish him well in the choice that he has made.

Photo of Mr Bruce McFee Mr Bruce McFee Scottish National Party

I was not here in the first session of Parliament.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

We still enjoyed what he was saying in Paisley at the time. Bruce McFee has been a valuable member of the Parliament over the past four years, and we genuinely wish him well.

In addition, I personally wish Brian Monteith well. We have known each other for a long time, and I think that he has made a distinctive contribution to the Parliament. I am sad to see him leave at this time, and I wish him all the best. Perhaps, some day, he will be involved in Scottish politics again.

I pay tribute to Phil Gallie and Donald Gorrie, both of whom have a particular knack of irritating many other members on a regular basis. That is one of the reasons why they have been such good parliamentarians. Their individual contributions and work rate in the Parliament have been remarkable, and I wish them all the best as they retire from the Parliament in May.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton served in a Government with which I disagreed on many occasions, but he is a gentleman, we enjoy his friendship, and we all wish him all the very best in whatever he chooses to do in the years to come.

I wish Jim Wallace particular success in his rather premature retirement from the Parliament. Jim was one of the great architects of devolution through the Scottish constitutional convention, and he served the Scottish Parliament with distinction as Deputy First Minister. He made a real contribution to the early success of the Parliament, and we wish him well.

Dennis Canavan is not here, but I say again what I said last week. He was the first member of Parliament whom I ever voted for, and I have respected him all my adult life. I wish him all the best in the difficult months that lie ahead for him. I hope that he enjoys the company of his young son in the years to come. We share his sadness and wish that he was here with us, today. [Applause.]

I now set on record my tribute to another well-kent face who will not return to the Parliament after the election of the new Presiding Officer in May. When George Reid returns to the chamber in May, to preside over the election of his successor, the Parliament's identity will change in no small way.

From the very start, George Reid has been a hands-on Presiding Officer. He has provided the leadership that has linked the Parliamentary Bureau, the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body and the chamber. He has also helped to steer the Parliament through some very difficult times, including the move to this great building. We can reflect today on how, when the Parliament's reputation was challenged by the development of the new building four years ago, George handled the completion of the building, our transfer into it and our early years here. That is something for which we should all always be grateful.

Even more important, George Reid has added his authority and distinctive style to the Parliament's proceedings week after week. He has ensured that all our voices are heard fairly. I believe that he has brought to the chamber gravitas, style and respect and I welcome that.

George Reid has been a great ambassador for our Parliament and our country, both here in Scotland and abroad. I have seen that in the many speeches that he has made and in the way in which he has promoted Scotland in the United States of America and elsewhere.

George has not been preoccupied solely with his duties in the Parliament, but has taken a serious interest in the bigger picture of Scotland's place in the world. I know that he shares my absolute conviction about the worth of futures thinking. I am pleased that the Parliament's futures forum has been established in a way that complements the work of the Government's futures project. That has helped us to understand what we need to do to meet the opportunities and challenges of the next 20 years or so.

When George retires in May—although I suspect that he will not really retire, but has many other challenges ahead—he will have given 33 years of his life to politics. He first served the people of Clackmannanshire and Stirlingshire in 1974. In the following decade, he had a distinguished career with the Red Cross that took him through wars and disasters in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mozambique and elsewhere. Following his time as Presiding Officer and as MSP for the 60,000 people of Ochil, he is about to come full circle. Next month, he will receive the freedom of Clackmannanshire, which is his home county and has been his family's home for more than 300 years. I know that George will cherish that honour, perhaps above all others.

Finally, I pay tribute to what George has done here in our Parliament over the past four years. He helped us—to use his own words—to move in and then to move on. He also reminded us all at every turn that our mission to build a more enterprising, compassionate and successful Scotland has only just begun and is without an end.

On a personal note, I want to say that Bridget and I have enjoyed the friendship of George and Dee over these past four years and that we hope to retain that friendship in the years ahead.

George, today we thank you for all that you have done to make this young Parliament a success and we wish you all the very best for the future. [Applause.]

I move,

That the Parliament expresses its thanks and gratitude to George Reid for his service to the Parliament and recognises the important role he has carried out as its second Presiding Officer.

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party 12:38 pm, 29th March 2007

Like the First Minister, I pay tribute to those members of all parties who will not be standing for re-election. Each and every one of them has made their own distinctive but important contribution to the Parliament and we wish them every success in the future.

It gives me particular delight to pay tribute on behalf of the Scottish National Party to George Reid. I know that I speak on behalf of everyone in the chamber—and, I suspect, in the nation—when I say that George Reid has been an outstanding Presiding Officer. He has done so much to enhance the reputation of our young Parliament. As the First Minister said, the past four years have been the crowning glory in a remarkably distinguished career.

George has presided over our proceedings in Parliament with wisdom, fairness, impartiality and, at times, an almost saintly measure of patience. As the First Minister said, he played the pivotal role in bringing the Holyrood project—and, with it, a very difficult time in the short life of this Parliament—to a close. For that, we all owe him a great debt of gratitude.

In my opinion, George's tenure as Presiding Officer will and should be remembered most for his role as an ambassador at home and abroad for Scotland, for Scotland's people and for Scotland's Parliament. George has opened the doors of this building to people from across Scotland and across the world. He has brought people to the Parliament and he should be very proud of that. George has also put Holyrood on the map as a model of modern democracy and that really is a remarkable achievement.

George Reid leaves a lasting legacy in the shape of the parliamentary futures forum. I think that he will be an incredibly hard act to follow in the next session of Parliament.

Deputy Presiding Officer, on behalf of my party, I thank George Reid sincerely for his service and contribution and take this opportunity to wish him and Dee all the very best for the future. [Applause.]

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative 12:40 pm, 29th March 2007

I, too, pay tribute to MSPs who will leave the Parliament today and I share in the sentiments already expressed. From our benches, we will lose Lord James Douglas-Hamilton and Phil Gallie. Lord James was the exemplar of courtly and articulate conduct in this chamber. I am not saying that Phil Gallie was not such an exemplar, but perhaps Phil will be best remembered for his robust contributions—I doubt whether the Parliament's sound system will ever be similarly challenged again. I thank them and all the others who are leaving for their contributions to the Parliament in the past eight years.

On behalf of the Scottish Conservatives, it is my pleasure to join in this tribute to our Presiding Officer, George Reid. George, I realise that your previous life required you to bind, heal and bring succour. That was no doubt an invaluable experience for anyone aspiring to be a Presiding Officer of this Parliament. We all realise that when you took on the job, there were probably more shoals of rock than there were channels of clear water. However, you navigated them with an assurance and quiet competence that won universal respect. There is no doubt that proceedings in the chamber have benefited from your authoritative and fair stewardship. A whole devolved institution has been enhanced by a canny ambassador and sage diplomat, and Scotland has been the wider beneficiary of such attributes.

Presiding Officer, we thank you for all that service and commitment, but also for being at all times and above all else a very decent gentleman. You gave us wise counsel when you said of this building, "Now we've moved in, it is time to move on." As you move on, we wish you and your family good health and happiness. [Applause.]

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat 12:42 pm, 29th March 2007

Presiding Officer, you have played a key role in moving Scotland forward. Four years ago, the public attitude to the Parliament and this building was too often too negative. Now, four years on, the demand from most Scots is, how can we make this Parliament stronger and how can it do more for us? That change is a measure of the skill, passion and flair that you have brought to your role. I have been proud to be present on many occasions when you have represented this Parliament with such dignity.

As part of a remarkable career, inside politics and out, you have been part of many dramatic parts of our history. I hope that your four years of service as Presiding Officer in this Parliament and to this nation will be a part of that life story that you will treasure particularly—as part of a truly international life, those years deserve to be treasured.

It is said that the greatest skill is to adapt. You have adapted away from the ways of the House of Commons back in the 1970s; to appointment as one of Her Majesty's privy councillors; to being Scotland's politician of the year—not many speakers or Presiding Officers achieve that; and to the implications of the smoking ban in Scotland. [Laughter.]

Restored home rule in Scotland is secure and ready to move forward and that is in very significant part a tribute to George Reid. You have the grateful thanks of my party and our best wishes for your future challenges.

Those wishes go with equal sincerity to two colleagues who are retiring at this election. For 35 years, Donald Gorrie has served his constituents in Edinburgh and across central Scotland with dedication and in pretty much every elected office that can be sought. I am sure that colleagues never cease to be amazed at the range of causes to which Donald brings his own unique passion. He has made a great contribution to public life and I know that, given his youth, he intends for that contribution to continue.

Jim Wallace, who has been one of my closest friends and a great friend to many in the chamber, rightly earned warm tributes last week for his final speech. He stepped up to the role of acting First Minister and served Scotland with distinction, mostly in truly difficult circumstances. Not everyone in the chamber will have been pleased to see a Liberal-led Government in this country for the first time since the 1920s, but we all respect the commitment and integrity that he has brought to life in Scotland. Jim, we will miss you a great deal.

I, too, thank all those in all parts of the chamber who are retiring. As one of the final acts of coalition politics for the next few weeks, I should specifically mention Frances Curran. The First Minister apologises for not mentioning her in his remarks and we—and I am sure all the party leaders and everyone else in the chamber—wish her well.

We should also thank the Deputy Presiding Officers for their very effective work over the past few years; George Reid's wife and family; and, in particular, all the staff who have supported the Presiding Officer and Deputy Presiding Officers over the past four years. At this moment, they are up in the gallery.

We have all been part of a dramatic time in Scotland's history and can be proud of our past achievements. We must now look forward to the great possibilities of the future. George Reid, I thank you for the part that you have played in that. [Applause.]

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green 12:47 pm, 29th March 2007

On behalf of the Scottish Green Party, I pay tribute to all the politicians who are about to retire and, in particular, to Dennis Canavan, who is a great friend and was something of a mentor to me in my first four years in Parliament.

Presiding Officer, it has been a pleasure and an honour to work with you over the past eight years in our new Parliament. Your contribution to Scottish politics and to our development as a legislative body has been extensive, constructive and universally appreciated.

Those of us who have shared from the very beginning your passion for the building in which we now meet owe you eternal thanks for your calm wisdom, tenacity and dedication in bringing the project to a successful conclusion. When sought, your advice has always been freely and patiently given, sound and helpful, and has always been in Parliament's best interests.

Your contribution has not, however, been restricted to Parliament's business. I echo the sentiments that have already been expressed that you have been an ambassador par excellence not only for Parliament but for Scotland. Your dedication to the vision of a new politics for Scotland is beyond question, and your encouragement to our Parliament to be open both to the public and to discussion, and to engage as much as possible with the wider world has been widely recognised.

The words "Wisdom", "Justice", "Integrity", and "Compassion" are inscribed at the end of the mace that sat below you in the first four years of Parliament, when you were Deputy Presiding Officer, and which has sat below you as Presiding Officer. Your compassion was well exemplified in speeches on Iraq, on Afghanistan and on international aid and co-operation that you made during the first session of Parliament. You have dispensed justice with an even hand, acted with wisdom and behaved with complete integrity throughout your time as our Presiding Officer.

On behalf of the Green group, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your contribution and wish you a happy time at home with Dee and in the company of your fellow citizens in your much-beloved constituency of Clackmannanshire. I hope—indeed, I am quite sure—that you will soon be as busy as ever, still making your contribution. May you have many years of health and happiness to accompany you in your projects. Thank you. [Applause.]

Photo of Rosie Kane Rosie Kane SSP 12:50 pm, 29th March 2007

Are you nervous, George? [ Laughter. ]

The Scottish Socialist Party echoes much of what has been said about the MSPs who are retiring—I am not one of them—and about the Presiding Officer. We acknowledge that during the past four years you have been fair and—yes—firm, too. The SSP saw a fair bit of that firmness. My colleague Carolyn Leckie was chucked out of the chamber when she stuck up for the nursery nurses and Colin Fox, Carolyn Leckie, Frances Curran and I got a very big row when we protested on the floor of Parliament in favour of democracy and against the G8. I promise that we will not do anything like that today.

You have been fair in giving the SSP time to speak in debates and at First Minister's question time and we are grateful to you for that. We wish you well as you embark on your new life outside the Scottish Parliament. If you need a reference for anything in the future, we will be happy to oblige.

I hear that you will receive the freedom of Clackmannanshire. Congratulations—I know that you are very proud of that. I point out that Cornton Vale women's prison lies within the boundaries of Clackmannanshire. The next time any of us finds ourselves inside, will you ensure our freedom? A file inside a cake will do nicely. I have a wee bone to pick with you, though. The last time I was in Cornton Vale you promised me that you would pop in to visit me, but you never showed up. You shouldna gie a lassie a dizzy like that. If it had not been for the fact that you rescued me just a couple of weeks ago from a gang of Vikings in the garden lobby—you remember them—I would bear a grudge. However, you are off the hook because you stepped to my aid—and made me blush, which is not easy.

Carolyn, Frances, Colin and I wish you all the best. We thank you for being fair and for retaining your sense of humour, which is not an easy task in politics. You are often described as a statesman, but to me you are just a nice bloke in a sharp suit, with a ciggie hanging out of his mouth, in the naughty corner outside Queensberry House.

We thank you for everything. It has been very nice knowing you and I am sure we will see you around in the future. I feel I should leave Parliament as I entered it, with a message written on the palm of my hand—it reads, "Bye, George."

Photo of Ms Rosemary Byrne Ms Rosemary Byrne SG 12:53 pm, 29th March 2007

As colleagues have done, I pay tribute to the hard work of members who are retiring. I ask members to forgive me for making special mention of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, who made me very welcome and was extremely supportive when I joined the Education Committee. I thank him for his courtesy and for giving me the information that I needed to get me started so that I could survive and thrive on the committee.

As co-convener of Solidarity, I am pleased to have an opportunity to thank George Reid for all his hard work during the past four years. One of my first tasks in Parliament was to be on the panel that was selecting Scotland's commissioner for children and young people. That was an honour, but I was somewhat nervous at what I thought was an onerous task. George made me feel comfortable and relaxed and his sincerity and commitment to making the right choice were very clear. I thank him for that.

You have done an excellent job as Presiding Officer. You have shared out the meetings fairly and, with your authoritative voice, I have sometimes thought that you should have been a teacher. My disappointment when I sometimes did not get to speak in debates was always offset by a nice little note from you, with your beautiful handwriting. As a teacher, I always noted your handwriting—I would have been proud of that if I had taught you.

You have represented Parliament well to the Scottish public and you have understood the importance of staying with public opinion, which is why Tommy Sheridan and I welcome your legacy paper on MSPs' expenses, particularly the Edinburgh allowance. As you have said, in politics, perception is everything. On behalf of myself and Tommy Sheridan, I wish you well for the future.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent 12:55 pm, 29th March 2007

Presiding Officer, it was not just yesterday that you and I and some other political anoraks sat discussing Scotland's possible futures well into the wee small hours in the Salutation Hotel in Perth. I have never said anything about that night and I do not intend to now, so do not worry. Seen from this distance, our thoughts and ideas appear to have come from another age. Actually, it was another age—it was before Andy Kerr. Although the cleaners were hoovering round us, nobody suggested that you leave the lounge for a cigarette.

Our professional paths crossed again about 25 years later, if I recall correctly, when we shared a broadcasting award. I was delving into drugs and you were running the show at a general election. I suspect that that is when you found that you liked being in the chair and steering things—Parliament has benefited from that. We needed a champion and, as others have said, you have filled the position more than admirably, for which you have our sincere thanks.

If Dennis Canavan were here, he would have done as I have—he would not have said anything about what happened 30 years ago, either. Like you, he leaves front-line politics today. His contribution, like yours, has enhanced Parliament.

Brian Monteith is another colleague who will leave our happy and eclectic group of independents. As with Dennis Canavan and you, I have known Brian for years. I will miss his free-thinking intellect as much as I will miss the same qualities in Dennis Canavan and you.

On this occasion, I can claim to speak for the independents. I have not always done that—I have always said that I was just the one who was pushed to the front while they all talked behind my back. However, I speak for the independents when I thank you and Dee and wish you well in your new ventures, although I fear that those will range wider than visits to garden centres, as I think Dee was hoping. As I am the last member to speak on the motion, I sincerely thank you very much on behalf of the whole Parliament.