Speech: Election as Presiding Officer

I thank you all, my fellow MSPs. I am very grateful indeed for the honour and privilege that you have granted me of being the next Presiding Officer. I also thank my fellow candidates.

I pay particular tribute to my predecessor as Presiding Officer, Tricia Marwick, who will be going up to join her family in the gallery. I imagine that she will be full of many and mixed emotions today, but I suggest that she find room for at least a small feeling of pride. She should be proud that she has served her constituency, her region and her country with distinction over 17 years. She should be proud, too, that she had the courage as Presiding Officer to begin the process of parliamentary reform—a process in which I will be honoured to follow in her footsteps. She should also be proud that she has left the Parliament more mature, more established and more confident than ever before—ready for our new powers and for the new challenges that undoubtedly lie ahead.

As Tricia and many of our former colleagues step down, it gives me great pleasure to welcome and thank you all—the class of 2016. I see around me many familiar faces and friends. I welcome you back.

I see, too, a huge—a record—number of new, freshly elected members. The energy, the infectious enthusiasm and the optimism with which you have already filled this building in the few days that you have been here have invigorated me, refreshed this place and reminded us of the opportunity that the Scottish Parliament offers us all to make a better Scotland.

As we look ahead over the next five years, I hope that we can work together. However, I wish to apologise now. With a record number of new faces, I am sure that I will make some mistakes in the next few days. I am bound to misidentify you; I will probably relocate your region or your constituency to another part of Scotland. In the past few days, I have warmly congratulated on their election to this Parliament two members of our catering staff, a BBC journalist and, last night, a special branch officer working for Prince Charles.

The revitalising of this Parliament reminds me of the promise offered by devolution: to work together across the party divide for the common good.

I imagine that all of you and your families are filled with pride that you serve as MSPs in the Scottish Parliament—I know that my family is. My late father, who was a headteacher, would have enjoyed this moment.

He was never elected. He never stood for office, but he was asked to be a candidate three times—on three different occasions. The most revealing aspect about him was that he was asked to stand by three different political parties. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I hope that I have inherited that quality from him.

I am conscious that each one of us—each one of you—has a tremendous responsibility and a duty to the people of Scotland. I see it as my responsibility and my duty to help you in that task. Thank you very much.


Click here to read the official report.