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Tuesday, May 11, 1999 Published at 18:52 GMT 19:52 UK


UK Politics

New parliament heralds new era

Here is a breakdown of political affiliations in the new parliament

Click here for details of live Scottish Parliament coverage.

Scotland's first Parliament in almost 300 years will convene for the first time to prepare for the formal business of government.

The 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament will gather at the Church of Scotland Assembly Hall in Edinburgh for the formal procedure of oath taking or solemn affirmation and the election of a presiding officer.

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The day's proceedings are unlikely to pass without controversy as newly elected MSP Tommy Sheridan, leader of the Scottish Socialist Party, has pledged to make a stand on the issue of oath taking.


[ image:  ]
Mr Sheridan says he will pledge loyalty to the Crown but only under protest after reports he would refuse to swear allegiance. Failure to do so would disbar him from the parliament's proceedings.

But Mr Sheridan will fail to grab all the headlines as one of Scotland's most famous political figures will be taking the first oath on the first day of a new era.

Winnie "Madame Ecosse" Ewing, of the Scottish National Party, will under the parliament's standing orders be the first MSP to approach the clerk in the chamber at 0930.

The honour goes to the "oldest qualified member" who is not standing for the posts of either first minister or presiding officer in the parliament and who is not a leader of a party with more than five MSPs.


[ image: Lord Steel is one of the candidates for post of presiding officer]
Lord Steel is one of the candidates for post of presiding officer
Mrs Ewing, whose son Fergus and daughter in law Margaret will also be taking their seats, will then take the chair of the clerk to preside over the rest of the oath taking. She is the only MSP to have been elected to both the Westminster and European parliaments.

The rest of the MSPs will arrive in groups of 10 at pre-arranged times throughout the morning and be led into the chamber in two groups of five from the east and west corridors to be sworn in. They will then be asked to make their pledges in an area in front of the dais.

The MSPs can choose a card inscribed with either the oath or affirmation but the effect of both is the same in pledging allegiance to the Queen.

Th texts are available in Gaelic, Cantonese, Punjabi, Urdu, Gujurati and Hindi but an MSP can choose to recite the oaths in another language if they wish.

The MSPs must then sign and date the parliamentary register before exiting the chamber via doors next to the dais.


[ image:  ]
The A3-size loose leaf register will be bound once all the MSPs have signed.

The Scottish Office says the swearing-in procedure is scheduled to finish at 1230 and procedures for the election of the presiding officer of the parliament - equivalent to the speaker of the House of Commons - will then begin.

MSPs can submit nominations for the position to the clerk in the chamber office in the Scottish Parliament Headquarters during the lunchtime adjournment and the parliament will then reconvene at 1430.

That post is most likely to go to either Liberal Democrat Lord Steel or George Reid of the Scottish National Party.

Two deputy presiding officers will also be elected later in the day and the Tories' John Young is among those seeking a position.

The election of the first minister of the Scottish Parliament will take place on Thursday.



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