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Retirement, re-election & missing ministers – faces we won’t see in session 5

Louise Wilson

Amid the excitement of election results, party wins and overall losses, it’s easy to forget that a number of former MSPs will not be returning to Holyrood for session five. Of those that stood for re-election, 26 will not be coming back. A further 24 retired from the Scottish Parliament. So let’s take a closer look at some of the most notable changes…

The biggest names we will not see over the next five years at the Scottish Parliament come from the retirement list: Alex Salmond and Annabel Goldie. Neither are retiring from politics however, with Salmond continuing to make waves at Westminster and Baroness Goldie likely to make more use of her full title. There’s no doubt that we’ve not seen the back of either of these formidable characters – indeed, I’m not certain these titans would even know how to relax in retirement! As Salmond said himself in his final speech before dissolution, “There is no greater cause to serve than that of the people of this country. With that, it is goodbye from me—for now.”

Equally notable are the two missing ministers. Minister for Local Government & Community Empowerment, Marco Biagi, and Minister for Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform, Aileen McLeod – who technically remain in government until Nicola Sturgeon announces replacements – will not be found in the halls of Holyrood. Mr Biagi announced his retirement from politics some time ago, but Ms McLeod not being returned was more of a shock. Placed fifth on the SNP’s South of Scotland regional list and also a candidate for Galloway & West Dumfries, neither was enough to secure her victory. She fell in the gap caused by six SNP constituency wins, leading to 12 list losses.

A similar shock can be found in the north east constituency of Aberdeenshire West. A gain here for the Conservatives left Dennis Robertson without a seat (he was not placed on a regional list) – a situation which some have suggested is a direct reaction to delays to Common Agricultural Policy payments. The loss was a double blow to the ND office though; it means we won’t see the return of Mr Robertson’s trusty guide dog, Mr Q. Also in the north east, with no SNP seats from the regional list, Christian Allard was not re-elected despite being placed first on the party’s list.

Moving away from the SNP, Lib Dem Alison McInnes was not returned. Not only the only female Lib Dem representative in the last session, Ms McInnes was particularly vocal on justice issues and generally a great asset to the Parliament. However, she was passed over in favour of former MSP Mike Rumbles for the top slot of the Party’s north east list.

Meanwhile, the award for shortest serving MSP was passed to Labour’s Lesley Brennan. She became a representative for North East Scotland following Richard Baker’s decision to step down in January 2016. Sworn in on 13th January, Ms Brennan served for just 70 days, beating the record of the SNP’s Stefan Tymkewycz who stepped down in August 2007 after having been elected in May.

Finally, it would be remiss not to mention the retirement of Presiding Officer, Tricia Marwick. Speculation is currently ongoing as to who will fill her role from this Thursday (which will also see Ms Marwick’s last appearance in the Chamber as PO as she leads the election of her replacement), but her own election in 2011 marked the first of many. First female Presiding Officer, first to hold such office without holding a university degree, first PO from a working class background. Her legacy will, no doubt, live on.

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