No rest for the elected! The Presiding Officer and deputes are chosen this Wednesday and the jockeying for position has already started. Malc at Better Nation has blogged his thoughts – and I added mine on why it has to be anyone but Tavish.
But actually my criteria are narrower than that. For I want to see a woman elected as Presiding Officer. Why? Because this will be our fourth Presiding Officer and there hasn’t been a woman in the post yet.
Isn’t that enough?!
We have improved the gender balance in our Parliament (more on this in a future post) so let us show how far we have progressed and have a female Presiding Officer. It will send out a clear and welcome signal about the status of women in our Parliament and elsewhere in our society. In fact, let’s go further and elect women to all three PO posts.
So who could do the job/jobs?
Presiding Officer is a strange mix of convenor, keeper of rules and the public face of the Parliament. Alex Fergusson, perhaps by necessity of it being a minority government and every vote potentially being on a knife-edge, was much more the convenor type of Presiding Officer. George Reid used his time in office to promote Holyrood on a wider stage: practically every week Holyrood had visitors from Parliaments and jurisdictions around the globe.
Ideally, we want someone who can do all these things. It also, in the burdz humble opinion, has to be someone who can reach across the party divide.
Over the years, the PO posts have been carved up across the parties. The only big party not to have had a turn is Labour. So *buggin’s turn* then? Hmmm. Fortunately they do have one or two very good potential women candidates. Patricia Ferguson has already served competently as a depute, Sarah Boyack has enough experience to do it but has become over the years, more tribal and less of a consensual player. Jackie Baillie? Possibly but she might well have her sights on the poisoned chalice that is the Labour leadership.
It would be great for Margo to do it – she has obvious star appeal and would still be able to follow her much-needed idiosyncratic path, but only if she has the energy. It is great she is back, and Presiding Officer would be a fine finale to her political career, but if she were to do it, we’d need two strong and supportive Depute Presiding Officers in place. Not impossible.
The Lib Dems only have one female MSP, Alison McInnes, and I don’t think she is the right woman for this job. Alison Johnstone, forming one half of the perfectly balanced Scottish Greens has only just arrived and is also a councillor until 2012, so a major role like this would be beyond her for the moment.
Folk on Twitter last night were suggesting Annabel Goldie but please, no. As with Tavish, why should one of the biggest rewards in politics go to a failed party leader looking for another stage on which to er, fail? Scotland’s Parliament is too important to have a pantomime dame leading proceedings, frankly. Amongst the other Conservative women MSPs, perhaps only Margaret Mitchell or Nanette Milne might have a tentative claim but again, would be more suited to a Depute role.
And that leaves the Nats. With 69 members to choose from, there are certainly plenty of potential contenders but do we really want a Presiding Officer from the SNP? Mebbes aye, mebbes naw. It clearly would have its attractions for the government, particularly as it needs someone who will negotiate willingly with Westminster to smooth out the legal ruffles in the Scotland Act currently prohibiting the Scottish Parliament calling a referendum on independence, or indeed, anything.
Those who fear a lack of scrutiny by the Parliament of the Scottish Government’s legislation and programme are right to warn of potential risks. Just as the Parliament’s procedures were not designed to accommodate or support minority government, neither are they fit for the purpose of scrutinising or holding to account a majority one. But hey, we’re staying positive in this new Scotland. And Salmond made a wonderful victory speech in which he acknowledged concerns, by promising to seek to win hearts and minds and at least made overtures about being inclusive. Let’s take it all at face value. At least this weekend!
So whom from the SNP ranks? Plenty of women to choose from. Maureen Watt would be great but the burd thinks she was a fall guy and victim of spin last time round and deserves a second shot at a Ministerial role. Linda Fabiani too would be good, with her strong international credentials and her ability to reach across the parties. Christine Grahame has been mentioned but while she has done a fine job convening the health committee, this role might be just too big. In any event, all three of these MSPs have just won constituencies: their focus should be on securing their toehold to ensure re-election in five years’ time.
Nope, in the burdz view, there is only one real contender (if she wants it of course). Roseanna Cunningham. One of the finest politicians, male or female, of our era, Roseanna was an excellent committee convenor, has been a highly competent Minister, is able to reach across the parties, and has the necessary gravitas and chutzpah to carry it off. She would also bring some much needed style, savvy and glamour to the role. And one very important criterion – no one scares Roseanna, not even Alex Salmond. She would be firm but fair. Her respect and commitment to Scotland’s Parliament and the journey she wants her country to complete would enable her to resist any temptation to give way to the Government. Roseanna’s eyes would always be fixed firmly on the bigger prize and she would define her approach to the office accordingly.
In fact, when you think about it, she is the obvious, fabulous choice. Roseanna Cunningham for Presiding Officer and Patricia Ferguson and Nanette Milne as her deputes. What a fine triumvirate they would be.
Glad that’s sorted.