ALEX SALMOND: VALEDICTORY SPEECH IN THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT
16th MARCH 2016 – LEGISLATIVE CONSENT MOTION: SCOTLAND BILL
I am aware Presiding Officer in making a valedictory address that there is a major rival attraction down south today.
However, on balance I feel that the Champion Chase at Cheltenham race course will not be overshadowed by my remarks!
I am grateful though for the opportunity provided by this debate to reflect on the position that this Parliament and this country is now in.
The legislative consent motion before us clearly does not pave the way for near federalism, or ‘devo to the max’ or home rule - all things raised in the last days of the referendum.
However, it does represent a further transfer of power from London to Scotland. That much should be welcomed.
It is also to be welcomed that the iron resolve of both the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister ensured that this was done according to the Smith principles of no financial loss. It is not immediately apparent that this would have been the outcome under any other leadership of this Parliament.
It is now ten years since a Labour First Minister suggested that there should be no further transfer of power from London to Scotland and five years since a Conservative leader said that a line should be drawn in the sand.
This Parliament and this country are on a journey and under these circumstances it is sometimes easier to see the full extent of the distance travelled when one is not in the heart of the battle.
In my very first speech to this Chamber I refuted the idea that we were a divided parliament representing a divided country. I suggested that we were not divided but diverse.
Now we have all experienced an extraordinary referendum campaign, one which was hard fought certainly but one which produced a level of democratic participation and engagement that most societies can only dream of. Yes – we are country of different views but we are not divided.
There is a broad consensus on the need for this parliament to assume greater responsibility for the governance of Scotland.
And we are definitely stronger - so much stronger - as a result.
We should think of just some of those we have lost. Bashir Ahmed, John Farquhar Munro, Tom McCabe, David Mcletchie, Margo Macdonald. Five different individuals, five different parties, five different viewpoints but still diverse rather than divided.
17 years ago when this Parliament was reconvened Donald Dewar delivered the best speech of his life. In an elegant historical sweep he described Scotland as "a journey begun long ago which has no end.” In truth we would do well to debate more the history and culture of this country. It is a subject worthy of discussion and is after all real reason that this place exists.
However when Donald spoke his administration was an executive not a government, the Parliament anguished every time it trespassed into reserved areas and there were real doubts as to whether the fledgling Parliament would stand the test of time.
These questions are now over. There is no doubt as to the permanence of this institution and the only question is at what pace will the Parliament, the Scottish people, and their Government assume further authority.
Will that make us totally independent? Not in an absolute sense. All nations are interdependent one upon the other. That fact of life does not change regardless of the status of Scotland. However the greater our independence the greater our ability to impact on the political environment around us and the greater the power will be to determine the circumstances of our fellow citizens.
It will be this Parliament which decides to intervene to protect the dispossessed as we have done over the bedroom tax, it shall be this Parliament which determines the life chances of the future as we have done on nursery education and it shall be this Parliament which places no financial barrier on human potential as we have done by the abolition of tuition fees.
I hope and believe that one day soon it shall be this place which removes weapons of mass destruction from Scotland, this place which decides to fully commit to a renewable future and this place which acts to not just to secure but to develop Scotland's proper position in the mainstream of Europe.
I wish all members well in their choices. For those retiring you have done the nation some service. For those moving on to new careers then think well of this parliament. For those standing for election then I wish you all luck - albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
Let me leave you with these final thoughts.
There is no greater honour in public life than to be a member of this Parliament.
There is no greater task than to mould the public purpose of Scotland.
There no greater cause to serve than that of the people of this country.
And so, with that it is goodbye from me…for now!