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This afternoon in the Scottish Parliament, Ms Roseanna Cunningham MSP made her last contribution in the Scottish Parliament chamber while summing up the debate on the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill.

Rounding off more than a quarter of a century as an elected representative, which began with victory in a by-election to the House of Commons in 1995, her title as the longest-serving current Scottish Parliamentarian will pass to her Parliamentary neighbour, John Swinney.

Roseanna said:

“On the last day of the current parliamentary session, it seems fitting that we are considering a Member’s Bill that has strong cross-party support and addresses a matter that is of serious concern to everyone who has an interest in animal welfare. I warmly congratulate my colleague Emma Harper on her successful initiative.

“Improving the lives of Scotland’s animals is something to which I am strongly committed. Despite having to deal with the extreme pressures of European Union exit and the Covid pandemic, this Government has still been able to deliver many groundbreaking and innovative improvements in that area. Therefore, I am happy to commend the bill to members.

“This will be my last speech in the chamber—well, my last in my elected capacity. This time comes to us all, sometimes without warning, so I count myself lucky to have been able to make the decision to retire at a time of my choosing.

“I confess to the occasional bewildering thought about how it all came to this. In 1967, as a 15-year-old living in Australia, I wrote to the SNP after the Hamilton by-election, and the party wrote back. I still have the package of booklets and leaflets, although they are a little out of date now. Approximately five minutes later—or so it seems—I am standing here making a valedictory speech in a Scottish Parliament. It has been the most extraordinary experience, a great privilege and, of course, a matter of some pride. Only the achievement of independence itself will top that for me.

“I say this in the spirit in which I hoped all valedictory speeches would have been made. Not everyone knows about it, but in the early years of the Parliament, there was an informal cross-party back-bench dining group. In those years, some enduring friendships emerged, including my friendship with John Scott. John was an active diner and will remember the great fun we had. The ease with which he and I have been able to negotiate our way through some tricky policy issues in the intervening years is, I suspect, a consequence of that early period.

“Tavish Scott, who left us during the session, was also an enthusiastic diner. When Liam McArthur was elected, Tavish pulled him into the same relationship—usually assisted by Prosecco, it has to be said—although Liam’s cross-chamber texts are not quite as wicked as Tavish’s were.

“I have to apologise to Anas Sarwar. Pre-lockdown, I said that I would make him a rhubarb and ginger cake, which I have singularly failed to deliver, thereby allowing him to say with authority that nationalists do not keep their promises.

“There are many others whom I could have named—members who were here in the early years and who have left before now. However, I hope that the point that I am making is clear: the capacity to forge relationships in this place should not be confined to party groups.

“I give huge thanks to all the people who have worked for me over the years, up to and including my current constituency staff—Emma, Carroll, Sheena and, of course, Calum, who has been with me from the very start. I also thank all the officials and staff, both parliamentary and Government, who have supported me, including innumerable members of my various private offices over the past 12 years.

“I give a special shout out to all the wonderful Government car drivers, who provide ministers with mobile offices and/or decompression chambers on a regular basis.

“Most of all, I give my thanks and abiding love to all my amazing SNP colleagues throughout those years—everyone from the best First Minister that Scotland has ever had, whom I first met when she was 17 years old, to all the newer members who came in after 2016.

“However, I have special words for my very good and long-time pal John Swinney, who cannot be in the chamber today. He was 19 when I first met him. We have been the Perthshire double act for so long that it seems strange to bring it to a close. I make the point that Perthshire is the most beautiful part of Scotland. I sneaked into the House of Commons a few years before John, and I am sneaking out of the Scottish Parliament some years before him, too. He has been a friend and, often, a confidant for decades, throughout which we have fought for, and continue to fight for, independence for Scotland. That is what motivated the 15-year-old me, and it motivates me still.

“I believe that I am right in saying that I am currently the longest-serving parliamentary representative in Scotland. As I leave, I pass the baton to John, and I wish him so well in the next years of his career.

“With that, Presiding Officer, I bid the chamber farewell.”


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NOTE: Video of Ms Cunningham’s speech can be viewed here


Roseanna Cunningham MSP, 63 Glasgow Road, Perth PH2 0PE  •  01738 620540   •   Website designed & hosted by Craig Mackay Design