THIS WEEK marks the 20th anniversary of the first sitting of the devolved Scottish Parliament.
A generation has grown up who have not known life without many significant services being overseen by elected MSPs north of the border, rather than MPs at Westminster.
Dumfriesshire MP David Mundell, who began his parliamentary career as an MSP, and his son, Dumfriesshire constituency MSP Oliver Mundell, reflect here on Holyrood as the Parliament reaches an important milestone.
By David Mundell,
MP for Dumfriesshire
Clydesdale and Tweeddale
IT IS hard to believe that the first election to the devolved Scottish Parliament was 20 years ago while, on a personal level, I’ve reached two decades as a parliamentarian, first in Edinburgh and then Westminster.
I was convinced at the 1999 count that I would not be in that first historic intake of MSPs. I was Conservative candidate in the Dumfries constituency coming second to Labour and, in addition, under proportional representation (PR), was fourth on the Conservative South Scotland list.
The PR result calculations were delayed that night and it was only when I checked the Teletext headlines on TV the next morning that I was surprised to find there were indeed four Conservatives, including myself, elected through the regional list.
This was the high-point of Tony Blair’s New Labour premiership and there were no Scottish Conservative MPs at Westminster. In the first sitting of the Scottish Parliament on May 12 there were 18 Conservatives amongst the 129 MSPs.
Today, with 31 Conservative MSPs, the party are the official opposition.
I was proud being part of that first devolved Scottish Parliament at the temporary home in the Church of Scotland General Assembly Hall at The Mound. There were huge political figures in the chamber, including Donald Dewar, Winnie Ewing, Margo MacDonald and David Steel.
In my own modest footnote in the Parliament’s history, I asked the first question when official proceedings began. It was about rural schools. Issues, it seems, rarely change!
Conservatives have worked hard to help make the Parliament a force for good and as Scottish Secretary I’ve played a part in devolving additional powers.
It is disappointing though that SNP Ministers focus on their independence agenda, rather than directing more energy to concerns such as health, roads and education.
Scottish Conservatives, including my son Oliver, the Dumfriesshire MSP, will go into the 2021 Holyrood election looking for Ruth Davidson to be elected First Minister of Scotland. That would have been unbelievable back in 1999.
by Oliver Mundell,
MSP for Dumfriesshire
SITTING in the Scottish Parliament now it is difficult to believe there was a time when it didn’t exist. It might be a bit controversial to say but I think the fact that the majority of people now just take it as a given is a sign of its success.
In contrast, I remember the buzz and excitement of the 1999 election and first sitting as a young child – already out delivering leaflets for my dad – and, of course, the blue helium balloons!
The highlight of the campaign though was going on a tour in Hector Monro’s soft top vintage Bentley (the thought of which for an MP now, as I said in my maiden speech, would be unthinkable!).
I also vividly remember the opening ceremony and everyone singing Burns’ ‘A Man’s A Man’ but more important than anything else that was happening that day I was just obsessed with the fact Sean Connery was there!
I suppose like any nine-year-old, James Bond was always going to be far more memorable than my dad becoming an MSP.
It has been a huge privilege to follow him and to be elected to represent my home constituency of Dumfriesshire as only its second constituency MSP.
In everything I do I never forget the trust local people have put in me and no matter how tough the job feels at times I always remember I asked to do it!
In reality, being constituency MSP is mostly an enjoyable experience and especially satisfying when assisting a constituent leads to a positive outcome. It is also great to support and be part of so many unique and historic community events.
Looking to the next election, what is really scary and also a big moment for Holyrood, is that we will likely see the first MSP born after 1999 elected.
That means we will be represented by a generation who have never known a time when the Scottish Parliament did not exist.