Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A New Tartan Government

Alex Salmond has been voted in as First Minister of Scotland. The vote was 46 for Jack McConnell ('the best wee numpty in the world') and 49 for Alex Salmond. The Greens and SNP voted Salmond in with the Lib Dems, Conservatives and Margo MacDonald (independent) abstaining.

Alex Salmond will now form a minority government. Every decision of this new government will have to be made in a spirit of cooperation. MSPs will have to negotiate and debate in a mature fashion in the interests of the Scottish people. In his acceptance speech (I've included it at the bottom of this post) Alex Salmond described the parliament as a tartan of diversity, highlighting the first Scottish Asian MSP.

If he governs in the model of this speech I have hope for Scotland. Even though they are called the Scottish Nationalists I have always been glad that this has nothing to do with race. Salmond's vision seems to be of an inclusive Scotland where anyone is welcome. Given the state of immigration in Europe right now and the UK, I believe this is a mature, positive approach.

As an aside though, its interesting to me, the last time I went home (October 2006) I saw little difference in the people in the North East but I heard a lot of difference. There are a lot of Eastern Europeans emigrating to Scotland and they all generally look very similar to Scots. But sitting on a bus you realise they are speaking Polish, Latvian, Estonian.

And as a final aside I find this appointment personally interesting. I've know Alex Salmond since I was a child. My parents got interested in the SNP and canvassed for them in elections a bit. The late Margaret Ewing was a friend of my Mum's. I vaguely recall Alex Salmond coming to our house. It's interesting that at that time the prospect of him being First Minister of a Scottish Parliament was a total pipe dream.

Here is his acceptance speech:
This parliament, created by the people of Scotland in a referendum, is bigger than any of its members or any one party.

I believe that Scotland is ready for change and for reform. This is a small nation with a big future. But it is also a small nation with big challenges.

"It was said the other day that Scotland is a divided nation. Given the closeness of the election result, I can understand that in some ways.

However, it's not the case.

Certainly, the gap between rich and poor is too great. We need to grow faster. We need to heal the scars of the past. We need to be greener. We need to be still smarter. But we are not divided.

We have a sense of ourselves. a sense of community and, above all, a sense of the 'common weal' of Scotland.

In some ways we're not even a divided parliament. Of course, in this part of the chamber we seek independence and equality for Scotland - not everyone agrees.

But there is a broad consensus on the need for this parliament to assume greater responsibility for the governance of Scotland.

There is an understanding that we are engaged in a process of self government - and an awareness of the distance we have already travelled.

In 1961, Bashir Ahmad came to Glasgow to drive buses. In 1961, the very idea of a Scottish Parliament was unimaginable. In 1961, the very idea of a Scots Asian sitting in a Scots Parliament was doubly unimaginable.

But Bashir is here and we are here, and that part of the community of Scotland is woven into the very tartan of our parliament.

And we are stronger - so much stronger - as a result. We are diverse - not divided.

The nature and composition of this third Scottish Parliament makes it imperative that this government will rely on the strength of its argument in parliament and not the argument of parliamentary strength.

Despite all the challenges we will face together, I welcome that as a chance to develop a new and fundamentally more reflective model of democracy.

The days since the 3rd of May have been understandably dominated by questions over the structure of government - will there be a coalition or will we have minority government?

Let me say to parliament that what matters more to the people we all represent is less the structure of government and more what we, all of us, achieve of the people's behalf.

Presiding officer, all of us in this parliament have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in a way which respects the parliament the people have chosen to elect.

That will take patience, maturity and leadership on all sides of the chamber. My pledge to parliament today is that any Scottish government led by me will respect and include this parliament in the governance of Scotland over the next four years.

In this century, there are limits to what governments can achieve. But one thing any government I lead will never lack is ambition for Scotland.

Today I commit myself to leadership wholly and exclusively in the Scottish national interest. We will appeal for support policy by policy across this chamber.

That is the parliament the people of Scotland have elected, and that is the government that I will be proud to lead.


A Paperback Writer said...

It does sound good. Here's hoping he's an unusual politician who keeps his promises -- or at least tries.

Gwen said...

"Every decision of this new government will have to be made in a spirit of cooperation. MSPs will have to negotiate and debate in a mature fashion in the interests of the Scottish people"

A very worthy sentiment. Now let's see if they can put it into action. If they can, hats off to them.

Annie said...

Can we swap NI's First Minister for Scotland's First Minister? ;)

I hope they make good use of that big, new, and very expensive parliament building!

ashley said...

I think Dubya would implode if he were forced to say "The gap between rich and poor is too great".