Presiding Officer

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 13th May 2021.

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Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

Thank you, everyone. That means a lot. I am very grateful. I am sorry that I did not have a contest today, but I am very proud to be in this position.

For those of you who do not know, I joined Scotland Forward, the campaign for a devolved Parliament, before I joined the Scottish Green Party, back in the late 1990s. The Parliament is such an important place for me. I was then really fortunate to get a job with Robin Harper, who was the first elected Green parliamentarian in the United Kingdom, here in 1999. I have been in this building in a couple of guises, and it has been an absolute privilege for me to serve as a Scottish Green Party representative for the Lothian region.

I take this opportunity to thank my little staff team of Sally, Dan, Richard and Helen, as well as all those who have contributed in any way over the years, because that team has changed. I also thank my Scottish Green Party colleagues, my party and everyone who worked on such a fabulous election campaign. Before I forget, I also thank my very patient and tolerant family.

Today, I have been afforded a great opportunity and an incredible privilege that I will never take for granted. You have afforded me the opportunity to take on a major challenge at an incredibly important time in Scotland’s history. We face various challenges. We are just coming out of the end—we hope, although we hear worrying statistics daily—of a pandemic that has affected the lives of each and every one of us. We have lost loved ones, and people have lost livelihoods. It is a very challenging time for us all, and it is the duty of the Government and the Parliament to do everything that we can to make sure that those living in Scotland have the best lives that they possibly can have and that we continue to work together and seek to reduce inequality and poverty.

I want to encourage a culture of open debate in the Parliament. We should be able to have that debate, and I would like us to have it in an atmosphere of inclusivity, mutual tolerance and respect. It is absolutely fabulous that, in this new session, I see more diversity—that is absolutely clear, and it is welcome. We have more people from minority ethnic backgrounds and far more women. That is fabulous progress, but we are not there yet. I know from taking part in hustings with Pam Duncan-Glancy that we have in her a real champion for disabled people. We can do better. We need to get to the stage at which the Parliament truly represents all people in Scotland, including people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, so that we really mirror those who live in our streets and neighbourhoods.

There are challenges ahead, of course. As well as facing the pandemic, we are in the midst of the nature and climate emergency, which we have to tackle. Our young people have done a fabulous job in bringing that issue to life, and they have helped to ensure that we adults debate it properly on their behalf. We have only a few years in which to act, and it is important that Scotland makes the most of the opportunity that the 26th United Nations climate change conference of the parties—COP26—will provide.

I will do my very best to make sure that each and every one of you has the opportunity to best represent your constituents, your interests and everything that is important to you. I recognise a lot of old faces—I mean experienced faces—and there are a lot of new faces, too. We will all have the opportunity to get to know one another better over the next few weeks, months and years. I assure you that I will do my very best in the role, as Ken Macintosh has done. His are very large shoes to fill, and he has done an exceptional job, for which I am very grateful. Thank you all. [

Applause

.]

I am pleased to announce the election of the Deputy Presiding Officers. Nominations for the position of Deputy Presiding Officer open at 9 am tomorrow. The details for the process of submitting nominations will be set out in the

Business Bulletin

. Nominations must be submitted no later than 10 am tomorrow morning. After the nomination period has closed, members will be notified of the names of the nominees.

I will resume this meeting of the Parliament at 10.30 am for the election of the Deputy Presiding Officers.

15:01 Meeting suspended.