Memorable moments in Scotland’s 20 years of devolution

In two decades of devolution, the Scottish Parliament has played host to its fair share of memorable moments.

As MSPs worked to bring in new laws that changed day-to-day life for people across Scotland, some of the more offbeat moments at Holyrood include a future US president being called to give evidence on renewable energy.

Sneaky cigars, a handwritten protest, structural issues in the debating chamber and a budget crisis also feature among some of the more notable incidents in the past 20 years.

Donald Trump tells MSPs: ‘I am the evidence’

Donald Trump was just a tycoon embroiled in an ultimately unsuccessful battle against wind turbines being installed off the coast of his controversial golf resort in Aberdeenshire when he appeared before a Scottish Parliament committee in April 2012.

The now-US president was a witness at its inquiry into the Scottish Government’s renewable energy targets.

Asked to point to evidence wind farms will destroy tourism, Mr Trump declared: “I am the evidence. I am an expert in tourism, I am considered a world-class expert in tourism, so when you say ‘where is the evidence?’ – I am the evidence.”

Rosie Kane’s handwritten message of protest during the allegiance oath

Rosie Kane – Oath of Allegiance
Rosie Kane – Oath of Allegiance

Scottish Socialist Party MSPs were elected in May 2003 on the promise of creating a Scottish Socialist republic so did not take kindly to being asked to pledge allegiance to the Queen at the formal swearing-in ceremony.

As party colleagues protested via clenched fists and renditions of Rabbie Burns, SSP MSP Rosie Kane said she took the oath “under protest”, then, holding up her right arm, she opened the palm of her hand to reveal the message: “My oath is to the people.”

MSPs vote down the Scottish Parliament budget

Budget debate at Scottish Parliament
Budget debate at Scottish Parliament

Holyrood’s annual tax and spending plans have been voted down only once since devolution, when then-Finance Secretary John Swinney’s budget suffered a shock defeat in 2009.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Greens joined together to oppose it, with only the Conservatives backing the Scottish Government.

The vote was tied at 64/64, with Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson using his casting vote, as per protocol, to maintain the status quo.

Alex Salmond, then first minister, threatened to call an election, saying: “The Government can’t stay in office unless it can put the budget through.”

A revised budget was passed by 123 votes to two the following week as MSPs sought to avert a crisis.

Safety scare as roof beam swings loose during chamber debate

Loose roof beam at Holyrood
Loose roof beam at Holyrood

A 12ft long and 4ft thick wooden beam came out of one of its supporting sockets and swung loose, stopping just short of smashing into a glass panel and dangling 20ft above the Conservative benches during a debate on the water industry in March 2006.

The immediate area was cleared and half an hour later business was suspended and the chamber was evacuated to enable structural engineers to assess the beam, which had been in place for just four years.

It was later removed.

MSP’s fly cigar on day no-smoking ban was pledged

Jeremy Purvis MSP
Jeremy Purvis MSP

Lord Purvis of Tweed was simply Jeremy Purvis, a Liberal Democrat MSP, when he was spotted having a fly puff on a cigar out of a window in the no-smoking block at the Scottish Parliament on November 12 2004.

It came on the same day the then First Minister Jack McConnell promised to ban smoking in enclosed public places in Scotland.

At the time, Mr Purvis said: “It wasn’t in the office, it was out of a window in the MSP block … I shouldn’t have done it and I will not do it again.

“I have given an assurance to the parliamentary authorities.”