You heard it here first. Tomorrow, Tricia Marwick, the SNP MSP for Mid Fife and Glenrothes, will announce her candidacy to be the next Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament.
And it’s such a good idea, the burd is only sorry she did not think of it before.
Tricia Marwick has been an MSP since 1999, elected first on the list, securing her re-election in 2003 and winning her constituency, the seat she has lived in all her life, in the SNP’s first historic election victory in 2007. She was returned to Holyrood last week with a thumping majority of 4,188, recording a swing from Labour to the SNP of 3.43%.
During the first four years of the Scottish Parliament, she served as the SNP representative on the business bureau, working across the parties but defending her group’s corner to influence the business of the day and the week. More recently, she has served on the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB), again working with representatives from the other parliamentary groups to oversee the smooth running of the Parliament itself.
Few MSPs have committed themselves so fully to working not only for her party’s interests, but also the Parliament’s. Few MSPs have the level of experience or expertise she has acquired over the years to understanding how the Parliament works and importantly, to acknowledging that it is in Scotland’s interests for it to work, and work well.
Moreover, she does not shy away from the tough gig. Being the SNP’s business manager during the early years was no easy task. The Parliamentary Group had a smattering of experienced parliamentarians but its ranks were mostly staffed by rookies. They needed to be guided, cajoled, educated and persuaded. That first term was also when Alex Salmond stood down as leader, creating a short term gaping hole in leadership. Tricia’s ability to work closely with her colleagues in her own group and to engage constructively with the other parties ensured that the transition from Salmond to Swinney was as seamless as possible.
It is her years, though, in the SPCB that put her candidacy way ahead of any other contenders. She has worked with and alongside senior management in the Parliament to ensure that it has the staff, property and services it needs to run efficiently and effectively. The objective is to ensure that all MSPs are supported to carry out their democratic responsibilities and duties. It involves everything from making sure Holyrood is secure, has enough money to function, pays its bills on time, has the right staff in the right place, and can accommodate all its MSPs, and feed and water them too.
Not the most exciting gig in the firmament but an essential one. And Tricia has carried out her duties in this regard with the utmost diligence and attention. Without MSPs like Tricia Marwick, Holyrood would simply grind to a halt.
The very fact that she has spent many of her twelve years in Holyrood engaging with colleagues from other parliamentary groups and reaching out across the party divide also stand in her good stead. What you see with Tricia is what you get. She doesn’t play games and is pretty straight up and down. She can compromise when needed, see a problem from all sides and has a keen intellect and eye for detail. A Presiding Officer needs to be trusted to be as good as their word and she would deliver that and more.
Mindful of the wider role that the Parliament plays in Scotland’s civic life, she would deliver on that with aplomb, though anyone expecting frills and fancies might be a little disappointed.
You may have noticed that she is a woman – and that, to me, is an essential criterion this time round, for it is time to send a clear message around Scotland about the importance and talent of our female parliamentarians by putting one on the centre stage of Scottish political life. She has the experience, the knowledge and the expertise. The fact that she is in the SNP is, to my mind, an advantage. Forget *buggin’s turn* – Labour had their chance in 2007 when it actually was their *turn* and refused it because they did not want to give up an MSP when the parliamentary arithmetic was tight.
Moreover, I would trust Tricia Marwick to rein in Alex Salmond if she ever thought what he was proposing was unconstitutional or agin the Parliament’s interests. Few, other than those who are comfortable in their own skin and in their own place in the SNP, are actually capable of keeping the First Minister and the SNP Government in check. She would be hardworking and totally committed to and focused on ensuring that the Parliament runs as it should, and that its wider role in our lives is fulfilled. She would not allow anything to bring it into disrepute.
Make no mistake, Tricia is a Nationalist who has been committed to the cause of independence all her life. But she is no one’s fool and knows that the one thing that would damage the possibility of making that happen would be to allow narrow party interest to ride roughshod over the wider democratic commonweal.
Tricia Marwick MSP would be a very fine, firm but fair Presiding Officer indeed. In the burdz humble opinion, there is no better candidate.
[UPDATE – The vote for Presiding Officer is a free one ie MSPs get to decide for themselves who to vote for. But that doesn’t mean to say they can’t be lobbied! If you know your MSP well and like me, think Tricia is the woman for the job, drop them a wee email saying so. And this isn’t just aimed at Nats who read this blog – MSPs vote across the parties for PO.]