Motion of Thanks

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:30 pm on 29th March 2007.

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

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.