So, we come to the close of the third session of the Scottish Parliament. Like all of you, I am sure, I find myself wondering where on earth the past four years have gone—but gone they most certainly have.
I thank those who have just spoken for their remarks, which are infinitely more than I deserve, and I thank you all for the trust that you put in me when you elected me to this position at the start of this session. At that time we were embarking on our first session with a minority Government. As you will recall, many experts predicted an early election, but we have arrived, relatively intact, at the end of our allotted four-year term. For that, I give credit to the Government and the Opposition parties alike, and I want to thank those who have served so responsibly on the Parliamentary Bureau for the parts that they have all played in ensuring that a full four-year term has been served.
I also thank colleagues on the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, membership of which can be a pretty thankless task at times—but it is nevertheless vitally important. This past session has involved the SPCB in a number of difficult processes, reviews and decisions, but I can say without fear of contradiction that its members always kept the best interests of the Parliament at the top of the decision-making process. For that they deserve the thanks of us all.
However, none of the work of the Parliamentary Bureau, the SPCB or any other work within or beyond our parliamentary campus would be possible without the dedicated efforts of the parliamentary staff. I therefore want to record my thanks to Paul Grice and his team, who have continued with that necessary level of commitment and dedication, despite the considerable restructuring that has been taking place around them.
I thank the two Deputy Presiding Officers, who merit every one of the compliments that have been paid to them today and in the previous days and weeks. Alasdair Morgan’s parliamentary experience at Westminster and Holyrood, combined with an encyclopaedic knowledge of standing orders, and Trish Godman’s experience as a Deputy Presiding Officer in the second session of our Parliament has meant—I hope—that the sum of the whole has been more effective than the three individual parts. I have greatly valued their support, advice and guidance, and I join every member here in wishing them every happiness and success in whatever the future may hold for them. [Applause.]
While I am on the subject of support, advice and guidance, I want to thank my private office. I was a complete rookie—and a slightly reluctant one, as was pointed out—to this post in 2007, but the help I received was quite outstanding. In Jane McEwan I have been blessed to have a principal private secretary who is quite simply second to none. I would literally not have got through the past four years without that support, and I will be forever grateful for it, as I will to my constituency staff Gill and Susan, and of course to the effervescent Gillian Gillies, who has always been on hand to help me with constituency issues here at Holyrood.
My dear wife deserves more than a passing mention for her unflagging support. She tells me that she is looking forward to seeing more of me, although whether she will appreciate the reality of that situation remains to be seen.
These past four years have been the most privileged of my life, whether it has been in chairing the Parliament, receiving many of our numerous visitors from home and abroad, representing the Parliament in the USA and Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Malawi, meeting the extraordinary people of Scotland during my summer work programmes or in the many other activities and responsibilities that make this such a wonderful role. I have simply endeavoured always to carry out my duties to the best of my ability.
Unlike the two Deputy Presiding Officers, and unlike my two predecessors, I will be seeking a return to Parliament, as has been mentioned. However—lest there is any doubt—I will not, should I be successful, seek a second term in this truly privileged office. That I have done so at all is more than I ever sought or dreamed, and I thank you all for the opportunity that you gave me.
Thank you very much. I now close the third session of Parliament.
Meeting closed at 13:12.