The Rt. Hon. Tricia Marwick, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, has said rumours of her retirement are greatly exaggerated.
The 61-year-old Nationalist MSP, who has represented the region since she was first elected as MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife in 1999, is standing down at the next Scottish Parliamentary elections in May.
She stressed she will not be retiring – she is still keen to carry on in a public service role.
But, at the moment, she said, she is not quite sure what kind.
Mrs Marwick said she believed May 2016 would be the right time to leave the Parliament and frontline politics.
“I have been active in politics since the mid-1980s and, for some of that time, held down a full-time job, looked after my children, as well as campaigning,” she said.
“It is possible that the next parliamentary session will last for five years and, if so, I will be 67 when it ends.”
“I want my constituents always to get the best of me and I was concerned that, by the age of 67, they might not.”
Having served in a number of SNP front-bench roles and sat on several committees, Mrs Marwick was elected in May 2011 to serve as the fourth Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, the first woman to take on the prestigious role.
The MSP said it had been an honour to serve as the Presiding Officer – effectively the equivalent of the Speaker in the House of Commons, taking an impartial stance and ensuring all sides of a debate were heard – although she said that was only about one tenth of the work.
“I never thought when I became an MSP I would end up achieving that office,” she said.
“As the first woman Presiding Officer, I hope I have provided some inspiration to other women to follow in my footsteps.
“To be the Presiding Officer during the Referendum campaign was exciting and challenging and I have never been prouder as the people of Scotland turned out in their millions to have their say on our constitutional future.
“More needs to be done but I am pleased to have started the debate around elected conveners and what I believe to be essential committee and wider parliamentary reform.”
“It has been the greatest privilege to represent the constituency I live in and where I have brought up my family,” she said.
Born and raised in Cowdenbeath, Mrs Marwick came from a strongly political family. Her dad John was a Labour Party supporter while her sister, Alice McGarry, has been one of Fife’s best-known SNP councillors for many years.
Mrs Marwick herself joined the SNP after the miners’ strike of 1984-85 but, having stayed in Glenrothes since 1975, she only ever wanted to represent the constituency in which she lived.
She said she had hoped to contribute to making a difference and making things better, rather than having any deep personal ambition – the reality of Scottish Parliament still being 14 years away.
As a member of Auchmuty Tenants’ Association, she and colleagues such as Davie Nelson helped form similar groups across Fife, to rally against the Conservative government and keep corporation housing in the public sector – away from public landlords – while retaining the option of transferring it to the District Councils.
Since 2007, Mrs Marwick said she and those who had worked with her locally had made some impressive strides – there was the Glenwood Heath Centre, which had been condemned years earlier; Glenrothes Dental Centre, the Michael Woods Sports Centre and a new Auchmuty High School, which attracted Scottish Government money.
“Looking back at capital improvements made since 2007, I am really proud of what we have been able to work for, and argue for,” said Mrs Marwick.
There was also the successful campaign – which many believed was unwinnable – she and ex-local Labour MP Lindsay Roy fought to keep an out-of-hours service at Glenrothes Hospital, while Mrs Marwick said she was pleased to see the approach of the new Levenmouth secondary school, which had been needed for many years.
Ironically, because of the neutral stance demanded by her Presiding Officer’s role, Mrs Marwick could not get involved in the party political side of the landmark Scottish independence referendum, or last month’s General Election.
But she said she had a “unique perspective” on both, which was “just absolutely fascinating”.
She added: “It was a privelege to be Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament at such an important time in our history, with the enthusiasm of people, particularly young people, to get involved in politics.
“We are living through a really interesting period in Scottish politics – where that will lead to, I don’t think anybody yet knows.”
Mrs Marwick, who worked as a public affairs officer with Shelter Scotland before entering full-time politics, added: “It’s been an absolute privelege to be an MSP.
“I want to thank my constituents and friends for their unstinting support over the years. I am proud of what we have achieved together and that I have been able to help many thousands of people.”
The MSP overcame a cancer scare in 2013 which temporarily curtailed her work.
“When I was diagnosed with bowel cancer, it made me realise I wasn’t invincible,” she said. “When you have a diagnosis like that, it makes you reassess your priorities.”
She added: “The sad loss this session of four MSPs from the 1999 intake has affected me deeply. My health is good and I remain clear of cancer.
“However, my family have had to make many sacrifices over the years and I want to ensure I can spend more time with them, particularly my two grandchildren.”