Local Control

– in the Scottish Parliament on 22nd March 2016.

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Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-15322, in the name of Rob Gibson, on bringing about more local control. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes what it sees as the growing means to promote local control in communities through the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and various land reform measures to effect land purchase and access to natural resources; believes that this has been benchmarked in the recent Scottish Government report, Impact Evaluation of the Community Right to Buy; considers that the Scottish Government target of one million acres being in community control by 2020 is both achievable and necessary; notes the view that, the closer to communities the decision-taking processes over matters such as affordable housing, environmental designations, cultural life and health provision are, the more there is a requirement for a fundamental review of local government and the powers to raise local taxes and to answer widespread and increasing calls for localism, including in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, which has a land area that is equivalent to that of Northern Ireland, and further notes the view that subsidiarity, sustainability and social justice should be applied to all community life, the length and breadth of Scotland.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

For my final speech as the member of the Scottish Parliament for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross since 2011, I will explore bringing more local control to the people whom I have had the immense privilege to represent. I will reflect on how the Highlands and Islands region, which I represented from 2003 to 2011, and my huge mainland constituency, which is the size of Northern Ireland, have suffered without sufficient say in their affairs. I hope that I will point out how decisions that affect local lives can be sustainable and socially just and how, by applying subsidiarity, all our communities around Scotland can, I believe, thrive.

First, I will recall some of the pressures that have shaken our land and shaken out its people. The so-called improvements by lairds in the early 19th century evicted the age-old, cattle-raising Gaelic communities from the most fertile land and brought in sheep farming, deer shooting and salmon angling for personal gain and the pleasure of the rich few. The results have been stark. Since around 1810, the exodus of surplus population to the industrial areas and to the ends of the earth has been augmented by losses in war after war, which has undoubtedly made the area clearances country.

I whole-heartedly welcome the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, as it can pave the way to build on the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, which has enabled 500,000 acres to come into community ownership. The cause has a long back story. Early protest against individual clearances led to the major victory of the 1880s in the crofters’ war for secure rented tenure. In the 1920s, the Stornoway Trust gained local control, but it was the 1992 fight by the Assynt crofters in my constituency to win their land that ignited the modern debate.

Professor James Hunter talked of

“new lights shining in the glens” when the crofters won. In praise of their 20,000 acre purchase, my old friend the singer-songwriter Andy Mitchell told it like this:

“No love nor commitment those past lairds did display,

A playground for the wealthy always was their way,

This land they once stole from us, they’ve now been forced to sell,

Since we’ve paid for what we own we’ll try to keep it well.”

Our Scottish Parliament will leave its teenage years behind and reach adulthood before the 2021 election. As discussed in the strategy report on having 1 million acres under community control, there is a new mood of hope for more diverse land ownership that is ready to roll.

That opens up wider questions about the democratic deficit in local government, as well as the need to build confidence and capacity and to use every possible resource to maintain and, we hope, repopulate more of our land beyond the crofting communities, create more smallholdings and create 1,000 huts and allotments across the land. We must apply human rights under the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to ensure that local people have the right to decide how to provide affordable housing, safeguard their most cherished environmental features, supervise local health provision and develop a vibrant local cultural life.

When I was a district councillor in Ross and Cromarty from 1988 to 1996, our policy had to cope with a steep downturn in economic activity, such as the then oil slump. Ross and Cromarty District Council promoted quality of life at the core of its work. Fèis Rois and arts provision were created alongside environmental adaptation and modern affordable house building.

In 2010, as an MSP, I consulted on decentralising services in local government and argued that small works. Today, the urgent need to develop local control could not be clearer. Local management of the Crown Estate coastal funds is looming and strategic planning of considerable community benefit funds from renewables is urgently needed.

The need to break up Highland Council, which covers an area the size of Belgium, is widely discussed. How can 80 councillors meet local needs in an area of that size? Caithness has always wanted its council back and deserves to have it. Other areas should have that, too.

In Highland, the democratic deficit shows as one elected councillor per 4,000 voters. Germany has one to 500 and representatives have full planning and service powers in thousands of communes. In Scotland, we must gain the right for local communes around groups of secondary schools and their catchments to decide local taxes to meet local needs. That is urgent business because, as the Parliament grows up, so should local democracy.

On the environment, my constituency has been heavily subject to conservation by command. All manner of designations hamstring scattered communities. We have a quarter of the high-profile core wild land areas. Our hinterland is criss-crossed by restrictive designations. We need conservation by consent.

We are caught between the zealots of the John Muir Trust, who want no wind power and who fail to manage deer culls acceptably, and some retirees and the rich, who often object to renewables or other developments in sight of their properties. Dougie MacLean described the latter in his song “Homeland (Duthaich mo Chridhe)”:

“You sold your house in the city

You put it on the market and you did so good

Now you’ve bought a little piece of something

That you don’t understand and you’ve misunderstood”.

Despite the growing constraints, I have witnessed many leaders emerging over the years—even from the smallest communities—to make a difference. Open debate and the ability to spend taxes will bring out many more local voters if we have more local elections.

Those who have led communities to own their own land include the late Allan MacRae of Assynt; Maggie Fyffe in Eigg; Willie McSporran on Gigha; and the real David Cameron, of North Harris. They have made their own lands places of possibility, aided immeasurably by the late Simon Fraser of Carloway—at last, the poor had gained a lawyer.

I have so many folk in my constituency to thank for advice and support, including my staff over the years, two of whom are now members of Parliament. I thank my current staff: Niall MacDonald, Maureen Forbes and Councillor Gail Ross. They call me the moss boss—I will not explain why, but some members will know. My sincere thanks go to the clerks of the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee; the Scottish Parliament information centre; my MSP colleagues, not least the RACCE members; and most of all my family and my partner, Eleanor Scott, who is my rock.

We live in a better land thanks to the huge support for this Scottish Parliament, which will soon reach adulthood. I will be cheering it on in helping to make our land fit for a sustainable future.

A dozen miles from where I stay on Easter Ross, at Kildermorie, in the winter of 1921, Christopher Murray Grieve taught the children of the estate gamekeeper, whose then laird Dyson Perrins—of Worcester sauce fame—was philanthropic at least in the village of Alness near his private kingdom. Much later, Grieve, who was the founder of the Scottish literary renaissance, having adopted the nom de guerre Hugh MacDiarmid, reflected in his long poem “Direadh Ill” on the act of surmounting difficulties. Thinking of the rugged Cuillins of Skye, he wrote:

“Let what can be shaken, be shaken,

And the unshakeable remain.

The Inaccessible Pinnacle is not inaccessible.”

My case for deepening local decision taking is unshakeable and rests on the solid ground of an increasingly confident Scotland where full powers are not inaccessible. [Applause.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Members will wish to note that that was Mr Gibson’s valedictory speech. He has given devoted service to the Parliament in a variety of roles. As we have heard today, he has been a constant champion of the crofting and rural communities, and particularly of his own community in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross.

Most recently, Mr Gibson has convened the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee with enthusiasm and zeal, particularly during the passage of the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill. His contributions will be much missed in this place. We, the Presiding Officers, wish him and Eleanor every success in their future endeavours.

Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

I thank Rob Gibson for bringing the debate to the chamber, and for his powerful, personal and moving remarks. Fittingly and historically, he has secured the last members’ business debate of the session on what many of us might regard as some of the defining ideals around which this Parliament was established: promoting local control, land reform and community empowerment. In fact, I note that Mr Gibson concludes his motion by calling on us to apply the principles of

“subsidiarity, sustainability and social justice”.

I could not agree more.

Another term that neatly encapsulates that same approach is the word “devolution”. In many ways, that sums up why I stood for Parliament in the first place. Whether that approach is applied to the land or to community rights, it encourages each of us to take more control over our own lives, to have the self-confidence to speak up and to see government and decision making as participatory rather than something that is done to us.

I am tempted to digress somewhat and have a more philosophical discussion on the limits of localism—for example, where do we apply national standards? Given our proximity to the election, I am sure that Mr Gibson would understand the temptation for me to tease him slightly about the centralising tendencies of his own Government. However, he and other members will be relieved to hear that I will do neither. Instead, I want to use my short contribution to join forces with him and with members across the chamber to talk about how we can now use the powers at our disposal to empower people throughout Scotland.

My interest in the land reform agenda comes at least partially from my Highlands and Islands roots. However, I have long believed—it is a view shared by most of my Labour colleagues—that urban communities have as much to gain from land ownership and community empowerment as rural and isolated communities.

My example—the Neilston Development Trust—is much closer to home. Neilston is now in my colleague Hugh Henry’s constituency but originally it was part of Eastwood. The trust’s origins are in the Clydesdale Bank’s decision to close the last bank in the village, which, as members might imagine, caused considerable alarm. In response, a group of residents came together and drew on the powers in the Scottish Parliament’s land reform legislation to take over the premises and turn it into a community facility.

I cannot do justice to the amount of work that local residents put in. There were crucial moments, such as when they secured funding from the Co-operative Bank. To be fair, Clydesdale Bank itself was very sympathetic. In the end, local residents were successful and the bank was up and running as a community hub. It is no exaggeration to say that the trust has gone from strength to strength. It has come up with plans to regenerate the whole village, it has promoted cultural activities and—in what I regard as the most significant development—it jointly developed and owns a small wind farm. The wind farm has the potential to generate hundreds of thousands of pounds in income for the local community and is a fantastic example of how we should, co-operatively, be making the most of our renewable energy resources.

I am not saying that the trust is perfect. Its members are more aware than anyone of how they could do things differently if they had a chance. For example, despite my unreserved support and admiration for the trust, I am conscious that it has tended to be dominated and driven by the more middle-class members of the local community and, initially at least, there were tensions with the more traditional community council. I mention that simply because although we pass the legislation here at the Parliament, it is sometimes every bit as important to build the capacity in local communities to access and use new powers.

Although the Neilston Development Trust used the initial land reform legislation, as a small village at the edge of the vast conurbation that is Glasgow, it only just qualified. I hope not only that the new land reform legislation makes things easier for communities but that the community asset transfer powers open up a whole new avenue for local residents to assert themselves.

Also in East Renfrewshire, the local Muslim community has already taken over a run-down pavilion and turned it into the Woodfarm Educational Trust. Members would struggle to find a better example of a local community taking a liability and turning it into a hugely valuable and well-used asset. It will be an interesting test of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 to see whether it allows the Woodfarm Educational Trust to move to the next phase of its development.

I conclude by paying tribute, albeit briefly, to Mr Gibson’s contribution to Parliament. His passion for Scotland and for the issue of land reform in particular has always been evident. He has never been more animated or more persuasive than when arguing about a cause that is so clearly close to his own heart. It is fitting indeed for him to end his parliamentary career with the positive, consensual but still radical motion that is before us today. I am proud to extend my thanks and those of my party to Rob Gibson for all the work that he has done for his community, for the Scottish Parliament and for Scotland.

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

I am delighted to speak in the debate, which, as we have heard, marks the final contribution to the Scottish Parliament of my friend and colleague Rob Gibson, at least in the capacity of MSP.

This is the third opportunity in a little less than a fortnight that I have had to highlight Rob’s contribution to the Parliament. It is starting to feel like he is making as many farewell appearances as Frank Sinatra. As I said in paying tribute to him at the final meeting of the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee, I suspect that it is highly unlikely that this institution is hearing the last of the current member for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross. All joking aside, it would be a great pity if it was. He has made an enormous contribution to the work of this Parliament, not least on the issues about which he is particularly knowledgeable and passionate. As his deputy convener on the RACCE Committee, I have learned a great deal, thanks to his generosity.

In the land reform debate, we touched on the fact that the generally consensual and effective nature of the RACCE Committee over the past five years owed much to Rob’s approach as its convener. His contributions to the committee, and in this chamber, will be missed. Indeed, he himself will be missed. I am sure that we will continue to hear from him in the years to come about matters such as land reform. I certainly hope so.

At the risk of giving away the speaking order for the debate, I understand that Dave Thompson—another distinguished representative from the Highlands—will also make his final speech tonight. Like Rob, Dave has left his mark on this institution. I have enjoyed working with him on the RACCE Committee for the past couple of years, where I have watched him argue passionately for causes such as crofting and fishing. A debate on localism is the perfect way for Dave, like Rob, to depart the scene, as it were.

Dave and I have often chatted about his views—which are shared by Rob—that there is a democratic deficit in the Highlands, because it is such a massive geographical area and its diverse communities are represented by a single local authority. Dave argues that case well, as we may hear in a few minutes.

Through listening to Dave and Rob and serving for five years on the RACCE Committee, I have come to share the view that this Parliament needs to commit to handing power down to a local level. It is already doing that in a number of areas, but at the heart of localism lies empowerment, and significant capacity building will be required if empowerment is to be delivered at the scale we all want it to be delivered at. For example, if improving the management of our communities in their best interests and in the interests of the environment in which they exist involves enhancing community councils, we have to ensure that those community councils function effectively.

It is a matter of concern that two community councils are in danger of folding in the county of Angus, which I represent, while two others have just started on the comeback trail. As the motion highlights, we need to carry out a fundamental review of local government. That review should consider the effectiveness of the multi-member ward system that is used by councils. I am unconvinced that the present system delivers accountable local representation. Across all parties and none, there are fine examples of good local councillors. However, the present system also allows people to coast along on the strength of a party vote or an anti-party-politics vote.

Localism is not just about tiers of governance; it is also about encouraging local people to come together, facilitating that so that they deliver in the best interests of their communities, for example by acquiring land or buildings and putting them to better use for the wider good. The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill have opened the door for that to happen, but we need to facilitate capacity building to support communities that may have little understanding of what is entailed. That is why, during the passage of the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, I argued that Community Land Scotland should be empowered to proactively go out to raise awareness both of the existing opportunities for change and of the support available to communities. That is also why I raised the possibility that the Crown Estate—post the Scotland Bill, when it will come under the auspices of the Scottish Parliament—could deploy the experience that it has built up of working with communities to proactively deliver local management agreements to enhance capacity.

I hope that we see real progress on those issues during the next session of Parliament.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak in the debate tonight. The main reason I want to speak is to pay tribute to the work that Rob Gibson has done during his time in the Parliament.

Some things have already been mentioned about Rob Gibson’s work, but one has not. That is the work that Rob has done, along with a handful of us, to ensure that the Burns club continues to be a success in this Parliament. During his opening speech, Rob delivered a number of quotes, not from Burns but from artists known in the Highlands today. It is very much in Rob’s nature to take the lessons of life from those who have experienced it and expressed it through poetry and song. I will remember that positively.

Another thing that I will remember positively about Rob Gibson is his enthusiasm for localism. Localism means different things to different people, and there is a point at which Rob and I will diverge and take a different view. However, I agree that one of the responsibilities of this Parliament—in a range of fields—should be to avoid the tendency to gather power to ourselves in Edinburgh. Wherever possible, the devolution of power should be carried down through communities to the lowest possible common denominator, because only by ensuring that decisions are made locally can we truly reflect local views and needs.

That is probably the point on which Rob Gibson and I disagree. Rob’s experience, particularly in land ownership, was gained in the Highlands, but land ownership and its functionality exist in a number of diverse forms all around Scotland. My experience was different: it was in a small farming community in Kincardineshire, an area in which most farms were relatively small and owner occupied. That is why I have found the land reform process in this Parliament to be obsessed with a particular version of history, perhaps centred on a particular form of land ownership that is not universal throughout Scotland. As I have said before in the Parliament, it is true that most land in Scotland is in the hands of a relatively small number of people. However, the vast majority of landowners are small landowners and we must be prepared to defend their rights. Their right to the private ownership of land is something that we should cherish.

That is one of the areas in which I have some worries about the position that perhaps Rob Gibson and certainly others in the debate have expressed tonight. The concept of community can mean different things to different people. If community means a press towards some form of collectivisation, it is something that I will not support and I will defend the rights of the individual. I have looked deep into my heart—I have shone a light into the darkest corners—and have even turned over one or two of the stones that I have found there, but I have not found anything that resembles socialism.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

I believe that it is never appropriate for us to dictate that the needs of the many should outweigh the rights of the few. We should be prepared to defend the rights of the few wherever we find them.

It is absolutely essential that I express, once again, my true and honest support for the principles that Rob Gibson has laid out. However, it is my desire to ensure that, as we go forward, the rights of the individual and the rights of the private landowner will always be defended. Only by defending them can we have a truly free society in which the rights of the individual will always be defended.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I draw members’ attention to the fact that this will be Mr Thompson’s second valedictory speech, as he gave his first last week. A Presiding Officer has suggested that he is having more farewell tours than Tina Turner. [Laughter.] Mr Thompson has given this Parliament distinguished service—in his case, since 2006—faithfully representing his constituents of Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch. His enthusiasm and care for his rural constituents, as well as for his fishing communities, serve as an example to us all. Mr Thompson, we thank you for your contribution over the years and we wish you well in whatever your future endeavours may be.

Photo of Dave Thompson Dave Thompson Scottish National Party

Thank you very much, Presiding Officer. I apologise for having another go at a last speech. I had intended to make my last speech last week, but I had not realised that this debate was coming up. When I saw that it was Rob Gibson’s debate, and that it was to do with localism, I could not resist putting my name forward.

I have known Rob Gibson for many years. He has been very active in the Highlands and Islands on land issues in my constituency, in Skye and elsewhere. He has an excellent knowledge of the subject and a passion for it as well. It has been a privilege to work with him and with Graeme Dey, Mike Russell, Angus MacDonald and the other members of the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee over the past couple of years. It has been hugely interesting and very appropriate to my constituency. I have thoroughly enjoyed it, and being part of getting the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill passed has been a real privilege.

I was a trustee of the Stornoway Trust, so I suppose that I was a landowner for a couple of years, many years ago. There is no doubt in my mind that there is an appetite in the Highlands for change. I have approached the Government on the islands bill. The minister is well aware of my suggestion that when we are looking at that bill, the Inner Hebrides, which I believe to be the neglected part of the Highlands if not of Scotland, needs to considered, as well as Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles. When we look at Skye, the small isles, the Argyll islands, and places such as Knoydart—basically it is an island, unless people want a 10-mile hike over the mountains—and Ardnamurchan, we see that all those areas in the west Highlands have exactly the same problems and issues as Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.

I have asked the Government—I made a submission to the consultation—to consider creating a council for Skye, Lochalsh and Lochaber. Argyll is a council area, but there are many islands there. We must look at the Inner Hebrides and the west Highlands as special cases. They are different. They are many miles from Inverness. If a person is in Uig on Skye, they are 130 miles from Inverness. I know that because I was over there on Friday. It was 115 miles to Portree. I went down to Raasay for a wee while on the Saturday, and then back home on the Sunday. It was two and half hours non-stop driving. That is all within my constituency. It is crazy; it is too big. Geography must be taken into account when we look at council boundaries and sizes, as well as when we are looking at constituencies for the Scottish Parliament. It is not fair on constituents that they have so far to go to meet their MSPs.

We need to go back to the burghs—the little places with populations of, say, 10,000 to 50,000 in Highland and the greater Highlands area. Perhaps we could have a regional authority covering Moray to Argyll dealing with strategic matters, but there could also be small councils for Skye and Lochalsh, Tain, Wick, Thurso and Oban to which we would give real power and money.

Photo of Aileen Campbell Aileen Campbell Scottish National Party

Could we add Lanark to that list? [Laughter.]

Photo of Dave Thompson Dave Thompson Scottish National Party

It is up to other people to argue for their areas, but my remit is for the Highlands and Islands. We must ensure that people engage again with their local communities.

Community councils are failing all over the Highlands. They are disbanding; people are resigning in disgust. They have no power and no money. We would not need more politicians, because we would not need community councils if there were small councils covering populations of 10,000 to 50,000; neither would we need to elect people to the strategic element, because we would nominate from the small councils up to that level. We would need only to elect people to the small councils.

Why does the Government not give the Highlands and Islands a wee pilot project? We could pilot the approach there, and then we will see whether it works and could be used elsewhere in Scotland.

I am conscious of my time, Presiding Officer. I could say an awful lot more, but I will stop there. I wish Rob Gibson and everyone else in the chamber all the best for the future as I head off into the twilight, too. [Applause.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Before we move to the minister’s closing speech, members should be aware that this is Marco Biagi’s last speech in our Parliament—I do not think that he has let us know that this is his valedictory speech although, now that I check my notes, I think that perhaps he has—as he moves on to greater things.

Mr Biagi has made a huge impact in a relatively short time in this place, having been elected in 2011. In that time, he has served as a deputy convener of the Equal Opportunities Committee, where he dealt with the bill on same-sex marriage. In 2014, because he is fast-track young man, he was selected to be the Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment—a position that he has held for the past two years. He has carried out the work of that office with great distinction.

Mr Biagi, we wish you well in your endeavours, whatever they may be. Good luck, and thank you.

Photo of Marco Biagi Marco Biagi Scottish National Party

I think that that was a call to speak.

The motion is a fitting send-off for my colleague Rob Gibson because, a bit like him, it is packed with ideas for local democracy, communities and land reform. Taken together, the unifying message is testament to the role that the motion’s lodger has carved out as a dedicated, thoughtful and occasionally just-the-right-amount-of-outspoken champion for the Highlands and, as a committee convener, an esteemed voice in the Parliament on rural affairs, climate change and the environment.

As the Presiding Officer said, this will be my final full speech. I therefore beg his indulgence to take time to develop a broad response to Mr Gibson’s equally broad motion, which is fundamentally linked to the question of the amount of control that people and communities have over their own affairs. That applies in Rob Gibson’s rural Caithness and in my own beloved, urban Edinburgh Central.

When I was elected in 2011, my acceptance speech was the product of three things: euphoria, sleep deprivation and a lot of rehearsal in the Ingliston toilets. It has been immortalised by the former First Minister as, “This victory is statistically impossible”; I maintain that I said no such thing—I only thought it.

What I did say was that this would be the Parliament and the Government that really changed Scotland, and for the better. I contend that we have done that, albeit not quite in the way that I expected at 6 am in Edinburgh that day. The voting buttons of the Parliament have brought much change—probably too much for Alex Johnstone’s liking—raining down on the nation’s heads over the past five years. We are not just the nation’s Parliament; we have a growing sideline in being a job creation scheme for political historians.

The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, which is mentioned in the motion and which I had the privilege—and challenge—of taking through the Parliament, is still sitting there like a present under a Christmas tree. It is wrapped and we have noticed it, but we have not yet opened it to see what wonders truly lie inside.

We empowered individuals and tackled social injustice by legislating for equal marriage. That gave me two stand-out memorable experiences: testing the Presiding Officer’s discretion by tweeting a photo taken in the chamber of the yes button in front of me; and, more enduring, being a witness at one of Scotland’s two, simultaneous, first same-sex weddings, both of which were, atmospherically, assignations at midnight.

Those are two personal highlights, but the real change is in the spirit that runs through the country. It is a spirit of subsidiarity, sustainability and social justice. Scotland has changed, through the actions of not principally her Government or her Parliament but her people. Although they were offered full control of their own country, the people of Scotland drew back, but in the process they built a great, loud, irreverent and sometimes rowdy public square and threw the great questions of state into it like fruit into a smoothie maker.

In 1971, Chinese premier Zhou Enlai was asked what he thought of the consequences of the French revolution. He answered that it was too early to say. We will be working out the consequences of these years for a long time to come, but if we or the next Parliament think that the desires that people expressed were just for greater national independence and not for greater personal and community independence too, we are misunderstanding the people more than history has misunderstood Zhou Enlai—because although that is how his comment is famously remembered, it is a misattribution; its meaning was lost in translation, and he was referring not to the revolution two centuries earlier but to the events in Paris in 1968.

The ambitions of the people of Scotland must not be lost in translation. The people wish to be closer to the decisions that hold such sway over the places that they hold dear. They ask how much control they have over their own lives. They ask that of the nation, but they also ask it of their cities, towns and villages. They ask to whom they pay their taxes, in what form and how that is decided. They ask who owns what and to what purpose. Those are great questions of community as well as of state. This country now needs to be changed materially. Like clothes that have been grown out of, our institutions now hang uncomfortably on broadened shoulders.

I am proud of our record, but community empowerment comes not from one act but from every act that is taken to make society more just, taxes more fair and control more local. It will be not for the current Government but for the next one to build on the work that has been done already, to recognise that great challenge and to meet it. I have chosen not to be part of the Parliament in the next session or, indeed, the next Government. I wish everyone who is part of that very well.

At the end, I am reminded of wise words that I heard spoken on a departure:

“there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.” [Applause.]

Meeting closed at 17:40.