Scottish election: MSPs bidding farewell to Holyrood

By Andrew Black
Political reporter, BBC Scotland


The end of this Scottish Parliamentary term has seen a record number of MSPs - 20 - standing down from life inside Holyrood.

Many are doing so after having put in more than a decade as elected members and range from some of devolution's most high-profile figures to committed backbenchers.

Several have decided to call it a day after only one term.

Here, is a look at the figures bidding farewell.

Bill Aitken

After a decade as a Glasgow MSP and 20 years as a city councillor before that, Tory veteran Bill Aitken decided to call it a day as an elected politician.

The former insurance underwriter, whose status as a justice of the peace earned him the popular nickname "Baillie Bill", made early progress as justice spokesman at Holyrood by successfully lobbying the SNP administration over sex offender reforms.

Never backwards about coming forward, Mr Aitken once described the parliament's historic land ownership laws as a "land-grab of which Robert Mugabe would have been proud".

On another occasion, Mr Aitken described Scots on heroin-substitute methadone as sitting "fat, dumb and happy", although he says comments like that are a vastly tamed-down in comparison to the views of his constituents.

Working out he would have reached the age of 67 if he served another four-year term at Holyrood and, with the lure of the golf course proving strong, Mr Aitken declared: "I don't want to hang about."

Mr Aitken's parliamentary career ended on a low point, after resigning as convener of Holyrood's justice committee over comments he was said to have made to a newspaper about a rape in Glasgow.

Mr Aitken said he was "misrepresented".

Wendy Alexander

The former Scottish Labour leader and minister Wendy Alexander decided to stand down as MSP for Paisley, the seat to which she was first elected in 1999.

Always regarded as one of Labour's brightest talents, her association with devolution began when she helped draft the Scotland Act, which paved the way for the Scottish Parliament.

After becoming an MSP, Ms Alexander went on to serve in government under three first ministers.

Following Labour's 2007 election defeat to the SNP, Ms Alexander was elected unopposed as Scottish Labour leader, the job she had her eye on for years.

But her 10 months in the post ended badly after she resigned amid a row over donations to her campaign.

Latterly, Ms Alexander chose to concentrate on seeing through new powers for Holyrood, a ball she got rolling by suggesting what became the Calman review of devolution.

After more than a decade as an MSP, the mother of young twins decided it was time to take a step back and spend more time with her family.

Rhona Brankin

Another politician who has never been afraid to mince her words is Labour's Rhona Brankin, who has stood down as MSP for Midlothian.

As a minister, her take-no-prisoners approach was known to get the odd back up.

During her time as deputy health minister, she accused a dentist from Stranraer who moved 1,000 of his patients out of the NHS of staging a political stunt - an accusation he denied and sought legal advice over.

But the most infamous incident came in 2001 when, as fisheries minister, she refused to bow to pressure for a fishermans' short-term compensation scheme to help the crisis-hit industry - resulting in said fishermen burning her effigy in protest.

The previous year, Ms Brankin, who underwent treatment for breast cancer, was praised by campaigners for her bravery and "positive attitude", although, reflecting years later, said she felt under pressure to return to work quickly.

Before becoming an MSP in 1999, Ms Brankin was a teacher, education lecturer and chair of the Scottish Labour Party.

Ted Brocklebank

Bafta award-winning journalist Ted Brocklebank is one of several reporters to have switched to life in elected politics.

The 67-year-old entered Holyrood as a Conservative member for Mid-Scotland and Fife in the 2003 election.

He quit as his party's fisheries spokesman in February 2007 over a policy U-turn - he was angry that David Cameron stepped back from a threat to withdraw the UK from the EU common fisheries policy.

Mr Brocklebank, notable for once using the F-word during a parliamentary debate on international aid while quoting Bob Geldof, has also taken a lead in speaking on media issues, as uncertainty surrounding the industry in Scotland has grown.

He now hopes to get back to his "old trade", having previously made his name as head of news at Grampian TV and the maker of programmes about the oil industry.

Margaret Curran

With her Glasgow Baillieston seat obliterated in the shake-up of Holyrood boundaries, Labour's Margaret Curran has made the move to Westminster.

She was duly elected MP for Glasgow East at the general election - a seat regained by the party from the SNP following what was a serious by-election upset for Labour.

Ms Curran's no-nonsense style stood her in good stead during her time as minister for parliamentary business, having to deal with opposition parties and the occasional Labour rebel.

As communities minister, she oversaw the then Scottish Executive's flagship anti-social behaviour laws.

Elected to Holyrood in 1999, Ms Curran, a former community worker and lecturer, is known for her fondness for the BBC television drama EastEnders.

Lord Foulkes

Labour veteran Lord Foulkes was probably as surprised as anyone when he ended up as an MSP in the 2007 election.

Even though he didn't quite expect his paper candidacy on the Lothian list to turn into an actual seat, his term at Holyrood nevertheless meant the presence of an old parliamentary hand on the backbenches.

The former MP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, who left the Commons in 2005, got a shock over the demands of his new job - saying the workload of MSPs was heavier than that of MPs.

Lord Foulkes was made a junior minister in the Department of International Development following Labour's 1997 election victory, before becoming minister of state for Scotland.

The politician is also a long-time sparring partner of Alex Salmond and was often rebuked for shouting from the backbenches - a practice which is common at Westminster but not so readily accepted at Holyrood.

Ahead of the 2011 Holyrood election, Lord Foulkes said his name was not to go forward, "even for an allegedly unwinnable seat".

The peer now plans to focus his efforts in the House of Lords, where he more recently made his name as one of the Labour members who became determined to hold up the AV referendum proposals.

Marlyn Glenn

Marlyn Glenn has kept a pretty low profile since being elected as a Labour north east Scotland list MSP, in 2003.

The former secondary school teacher considers herself on the left of the party, and has previously voted with the SNP at Holyrood opposing the replacement of nuclear weapons.

Ms Glenn briefly hit the headlines in 2005, when she mounted an unsuccessful attempt to ban the smacking of children with an amendment to family law legislation, being considered by Holyrood at the time.

The issue was a sore point with the then Labour/Lib Dem coalition, which had tried to bring in such a ban in 2002, before it was dropped after being deemed unworkable.

Ms Glenn says she has given "a great deal of her time to the Labour Party" over the years, having served on its policy and women's committees.

Trish Godman

Since entering parliament in 1999 as the MSP for West Renfrewshire, Trish Godman has used her time to campaign strongly on equality issues.

She has been well placed to do so, having worked as a waitress and in other jobs after leaving school at 15, and bringing up three sons as a single mother.

After training as a social worker, Ms Godman went on to work with people suffering from drug and alcohol problems in the east of Glasgow.

Her passion for helping those from tougher backgrounds translated into her time as an MSP, where she argued for changes to laws on prostitution, while going head-to-head with independent Margo MacDonald, who tried to introduce legislation to establish prostitute tolerance zones.

Ms Godman's profile at Holyrood was boosted after serving as a deputy presiding officer, and she was never afraid of stepping outside party lines when it came to issues in her constituency.

In 2005, Poland's Remontowa ship yard was named the preferred bidder for a fisheries protection vessel, ahead of Port Glasgow's Ferguson yard, after the then Labour/Lib Dem government said it had to be wary of EU tendering rules.

Launching an out-spoken attack, Ms Godman said at the time: "I am deeply angry and bitterly disappointed over the weak-kneed betrayal of the men and women at Ferguson by the Scottish Executive.

"The Scottish Executive and its officials have cut these men and women adrift in their over-cautious and spineless approach to the EU and its rules."

Ms Godman has also been forced to cope with personal issues, after her son, Gary Mulgrew - one of the so-called "Nat West Three", admitted fraud charges in the US in 2007, in a case relating to the Enron scandal.

She said at the time that he was the victim of an "unjust extradition treaty which breaches human rights".

Ms Godman is now looking forward to spending more time on one of her great passions, growing all her own vegetables, fruit and flowers.

As she puts it herself: "At the allotment there is no phone or fax - bliss."

Robin Harper

Back in 1999, Robin Harper blazed a trail as the UK's first Green parliamentarian, when he was elected as an MSP for the Lothians.

With his fedora and multi-coloured scarf, the former teacher was instantly compared with the eccentric Doctor Who (of the Tom Baker era) and became known for taking part in anti-nuclear and GM crop protests.

The party's greatest moment came in the 2003 Scottish election - when the number of Green MSPs ballooned from one to seven.

Although the number of Green MSPs was slashed back to just Mr Harper and Patrick Harvie in 2007, the two helped strike a working deal with the fledgling minority SNP government.

Some saw Mr Harper as a veteran political visionary, others, a bumbling-yet-endearing parliamentarian, but he will no doubt be remembered as one of Holyrood's most enigmatic characters.

Even his announcement to step down was classic Robin Harper - "I would dearly love to spend more time with my wife, and for that matter with myself," he said.

Christopher Harvie

Staying with slightly eccentric politicians, Chris Harvie made the decision not to seek re-election, after serving one term as an SNP MSP for mid-Scotland and Fife.

The historian's throwaway observations and colourful speeches at Holyrood, which he often sought to illustrate with examples of the German experience, helped him win the "free spirit" accolade in 2008's Scottish politician of the year awards.

But he was forced to apologised when he was judged to have gone too far, after branding the town of Lockerbie, the scene of the UK's worst terrorist atrocity, "a dump", while contributing to a Holyrood inquiry on boosting tourism.

Before the world of elected politics beckoned, Mr Harvie, often seen resplendent in his trademark tweed plus fours, served as a professor of history and politics, at institutions including the Universities of Wales, Strathclyde, as well as teaching at the Open University.

Cathy Jamieson

Like Margaret Curran, Cathy Jamieson is quitting the Scottish Parliament for Westminster, after she was elected Labour MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun at the last UK election.

The fine arts graduate-turned social worker, who has stood down as MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, served as education and justice minister in former first minister Jack McConnell's cabinet.

In the justice brief, she oversaw efforts to stamp out anti-social behaviour and drug dealing and attempted to tackle Scotland's so-called "booze and blades" culture.

She stood firm in the face of calls to step down from the post, following several blunders with the privatised prison escort service Reliance, when a number of prisoners were released in error.

Ms Jamieson also took some heat in 2006 from the makers of Buckfast tonic wine, after she called for it to be removed from shops - an issue which would become central to the alcohol debate in later years.

The previous year, her involvement with the justice system took on a more personal note, after she denied helping her nephew evade the law.

She had paid £100 into the bank account of Derek Hyslop in July 1999, insisting the money was to buy clothes for his newborn son, saying she did not know he was on the run at the time.

She also said that Hyslop, who was later jailed for manslaughter, tried to blackmail her from prison.

Ms Jamieson remained justice minister until Labour lost power in the 2007 Holyrood election.

After having served as deputy to Wendy Alexander during her turbulent time as Scottish Labour leader, and several years prior to that, she made a bid for the leadership, but lost out to Iain Gray.

Jim Mather

Despite being a Holyrood newcomer in 2003, Jim Mather was handed a frontbench role, taking responsibility for enterprise and economy matters.

The one-time Highlands and Islands list MSP claimed success for the SNP in the 2007 election when he took the Liberal Democrat-held seat of Argyll and Bute and won the job of enterprise minister in the Nationalist administration.

Anyone involved in a meeting with Mr Mather knew they were in for a hardcore session of mind-mapping - a method which uses diagrams to link different ideas to a central theme.

Before Holyrood beckoned, he worked as a chartered accountant before furthering his career in the IT sector.

Lord McConnell

As the man who still holds the record as Scotland's longest-serving first minister, Jack McConnell has been one of devolution's highest-profile figures.

Elected Labour MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw, the former maths teacher came to the fore after taking up the "poisoned chalice" of education minister, tackling a crisis at the Scottish Qualifications Authority head-on.

Following Henry McLeish's resignation as first minister following an expenses row, Lord McConnell won the job - openly admitting to a previous extra-marital affair in the process - but he took on the post while wondering whether devolution could survive.

As first minister, Mr McConnell pioneered the public smoking ban and forged new links with the African country of Malawi, one of the poorest in the world, which remain strong to this day.

He stood down as Scottish Labour leader after the SNP's 2007 election win, moving to the backbenches for four years.

And after being made a life peer, taking the title Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, he announced a move to leave Holyrood.

The peer said he wanted to advance objectives, such as strengthening the links between Scotland and Malawi which he forged as first minister.

He also plans to work in post-conflict reconstruction and campaign for vulnerable young people.

In his parting shot to Holyrood, Lord McConnell said the Scottish Parliament was failing in its role as a focal point for national debate and ministerial scrutiny and was in need of "radical change".

Ian McKee

Ian McKee is standing down from Holyrood after serving only one term, as an SNP member for the Lothians.

Latterly a GP, South Shields-born Dr McKee worked as a hospital doctor and RAF medical officer in the 60s and 70s.

He put his medical knowledge to good use during his time at Holyrood, serving on the parliament's health committee.

Alasdair Morgan

Alasdair Morgan has been a key figure in the Scottish National Party since the mid-70s.

He came to the fore in the 1997 UK election, when he claimed the scalp of Tory cabinet member Ian Lang, to become MP for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale.

Mr Morgan quit Westminster in 2001, after his election to the Holyrood version of the seat, but became a regional MSP for the South of Scotland, after losing the constituency to the Tories in the 2003 Scottish election.

Always seen by the SNP as a safe pair of hands, he previously held several senior posts in the party, including national secretary, national treasurer and, later, chief whip.

In the last parliament, the former IT sector worker and committed hill walker served as a deputy presiding officer at Holyrood and took on a number of local issues.

John Farquhar Munro

Born on 26th August 1934, John Farquhar Munro was seen as a kind-of unofficial father of the Scottish Parliament.

Elected MSP for Ross, Skye and Inverness West in the Lib Dems' Highland heartland in 1999, local boy Mr Munro has become a well-liked politician both inside and outside the Holyrood bubble.

After a decade as a merchant marine in the 50s, Mr Munro - a classic car enthusiast - went on to become self-employed, working in heavy haulage, as a bus operator, quarrying contractor and crofter.

His unusual frontbench role at Holyrood, speaking on Gaelic issues, was not one held by other parties, but was testament to his unwavering support for the language and Highland culture.

The former councillor campaigned for abolition of the Skye Bridge tolls and, in the second parliament, failed in a bid to require people to opt out of organ donation, a move which was backed by the British Medical Association.

Latterly, he fought against funding cuts for Plockton's traditional music school in his constituency.

He was also one of several Lib Dem MSPs to have openly supported an independence referendum, against the position of the party leadership.

Peter Peacock

Another MSP who has served since 1999, Peter Peacock decided to call it a day, more than 10 years after being elected as an MSP for the Highlands and Islands.

He served as education minister under the Labour-Lib Dem Scottish Executive before stepping down from government in November 2006, after being treated for a condition likened to a mild stroke.

The former Highland Council leader was credited by several teaching unions with having improved the state of education.

Mr Peacock soldiered on in the backbenches in the last parliament, taking on such issues as the fight to recognise the Stornoway black pudding, the decline of Scotland's bee population and a number of countryside-related topics.

Despite leaving Holyrood, Mr Peacock insists he is not retiring, and is now looking for the next challenge.

Lord Stephen

For almost a decade, Liberal Democrat politician Nicol Stephen was a key figure in Scottish devolution, both in terms of his party's standing and his role in government.

The former, councillor and (briefly) MP, has stepped down as MSP for Aberdeen South, the seat he won in 1999.

He served in several government roles as part of his party's coalition with Scottish Labour, including transport minister.

Marked out as a future Scottish Lib Dem leader, Lord Stephen got the job after the 2005 UK election, the post of Scottish deputy first minister coming along with it.

With his "Mr Nice" tag, Lord Stephen's critics questioned whether he had the charisma for the job, but beneath the gentle demeanour lurked the former lawyer's tough persona.

In the wake of the 2007 election result, his unwavering refusal to do a power-sharing deal with the SNP because of its independence stance meant the party was relegated to the opposition benches.

Then his claws came out, strongly attacking the SNP on several fronts, most notably when he claimed the Scottish Government's involvement with Donald Trump's £1bn Aberdeenshire golf resort "smelled of sleaze".

But with the stresses and strains of the job proving too much for his personal life, the father-of-four decided to step down as party leader.

Lord Stephen is now looking forward to the next phase of his political life, after becoming a peer.

Jamie Stone

Jamie Stone, despite his occasional shambolic but endearing style, is a popular character among MSPs and especially his constituents.

He is also one of several politicians stepping down from parliament after being elected at the start of devolution in 1999.

As a member of the dreaded "progress group" tasked with keeping tabs on the escalating cost and controversy of the Holyrood building project, Mr Stone defended a decision to spend £88,000 on its reception desk.

He also dismissed claims that MSPs' offices were badly designed, all at a time when public feeling over the cost of the building project was running high.

The Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MSP - who raised eyebrows after once calling the SNP xenophobic - has led a varied career, including working at a fish factory, in the oil industry and with the family cheese business.

Andrew Welsh

After 40 years of involvement in local and national politics, SNP veteran Andrew Welsh has decided to take a step back.

The 66-year-old served as MSP for Angus since devolution in 1999, after first rising to prominence following his election to Westminster as part of the famous group of 11 nationalist MPs in 1974.

After being ousted as an MP in 1979, Mr Welsh was re-elected to the Westminster parliament in 1987.

He represented South Angus, Angus East and finally Angus between 1997 and 2001.

At Holyrood the former teacher served on the audit committee and was appointed convener of the finance committee in the last parliament.

Mr Welsh, a former provost of Angus, spent much of his time seeking to raise the profile of the area, calling it a "Scottish gem".