Tricia Marwick: Leaving a legacy after five years in the hot seat

Tricia pictured at the Scottish Parliament. 

Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Tricia pictured at the Scottish Parliament. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
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“It’s the one time in my life that l’ve been sure beyond any doubt that I was right for the job and the job was right for me,” reflects Tricia Marwick, the Glenrothes and Mid Fife MSP, from the comfort of the Presiding Officer’s suite at the Scottish Parliament.

It’s easy to agree with such an assured, respected and experienced politician who this week to a close five years in the coveted role as PresidingOfficer of the Scottish Parliament.

Meeting 
Queen Elizabeth II during the fourth session of the Scottish Parliament in 2011. Pic - James Chapelard/Scottish Parliament

Meeting Queen Elizabeth II during the fourth session of the Scottish Parliament in 2011. Pic - James Chapelard/Scottish Parliament

“I’m a born self doubter but I absolutely wanted the position, not like some simply want to have a title, but because I wanted to make a difference to the the way this parliament works, how it conducts its business,” she explained. “I wanted to make it better and certainly more efficient.”

And a difference she has made, from reforming the working week of Scottish MSP’s - they now work three days at Holyrood as opposed to two, to the introduction of topical questions allowing MSP’s to be able to quiz ministers over breaking issues and the start of far reaching reforms to the way parliamentary committees work.

And most recognisable of all, she is of course the first female Presiding Officer, a fact that cements her in the history of Scottish politics for ever.

“Alongside me we have three female party leaders, but we still need more women taking on key roles, but it is getting better,” she reflects.

In the hot seat in her role as Presiding Officer. Pic Phil Wilkinson.

In the hot seat in her role as Presiding Officer. Pic Phil Wilkinson.

Asked about the moments that have stuck out in her time Tricia points without hesitation the passing of the Equal Marriage Bill as a highlight.

“I chaired most of that myself and was personally committed to its success.

“It was joyous occasion and when the public gallery erupted, normally that would not be allowed but it’s about seizing that moment and realising how importance of the decision to a great many lives .

“Allowing their expression of delight at the passing of such legislation was a beautiful and historic moment for our country and a proud moment for the parliament.

“After all if politics is not about people then it is about nothing and that’s the one thing we should never forget.”

The political landscape today is far removed from the one she encountered in 1985 when she joined the Scottish National Party.

“The party was languishing at about eight per cent in the polls and it was still 14 years before the Scottish Parliament was even created. I couldn’t have envisaged such a role, to have done so would have rendered you mad.”

Unsuccessful in both the 1992 and 1997 Westminster elections it proved third time lucky as she secured the Mid Scotland and Fife seat for the newly formed Scottish Parliament in 1999. “We had to grow with the parliament, it was a new entity that was trying to find its feet and we were only just realising what it stood for and what we should be doing.

“We were all in it together, we only had each other and because of that a lot of strong cross party friendships grew out of that period,” Tricia remembers. In May 2011 came the pinnacle of her career as she was announced as the fourth Presiding Officer and despite her initial surprise of just how demanding the job was, it’s one she said she has relished and will miss terribly.

And let’s not forget that demanding role was made a whole lot harder after she had to overcome bowel cancer in 2014, a battle she won, largely she says, to the support shown from her constituents.

Asked if she had any regrets she points to ongoing need to reform the committee process, work that she hopes her successor will continue “with the vigour that it deserves”.

And a legacy?

“My legacy is for other folks to decide but as the first female Presiding Officer not to go to a private school or university I hope I’ve shown other women what can be achieved,they too can get ahead on merit, hopefully I’ve given women confidence that political life can be theirs.”