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Wednesday, May 12, 1999 Published at 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK

UK Politics

Peer wins top parliament job

MSPs gather to perform their first task since being sworn in

The first presiding officer of the new Scottish Parliament is the Liberal Democrat peer Sir David Steel.

Winnie Ewing declares the result
In a secret ballot, Sir David polled 82 votes. The only other candidate was the Scottish National Party MSP George Reid, who received 44 votes.

He said: "I thank you for this honour and the responsibility which you have given me. I intend to set aside party affiliation and to be the servant of the whole house.

[ image: Lord Steel in his new seat]
Lord Steel in his new seat
"Last week William McIlvanney (Scottish writer) in a poem, talked about the Scottish lion becoming a kitten again, which must be cherished and we must cherish this parliament."

In a reference to a comment made at the close of the last Scottish Parliament in 1707, he said: "This is the start of a new 'sang' (song)."

Vote 99 Special Coverage
Mr Reid paid tribute to the winner, who he said he had known personally for 44 years.

"I'm pleased by this appointment and I'm sure that Sir David will ensure that this house is open, accessible, accountable, strong on equal opportunities and work in partnership with civic Scotland," he told the chamber.

BBC Scotland's Kit Fraser speaks to Sir David Steel
The 129 MSPs reconvened to elect the presiding officer - who will perform a similar role to the speaker at Westminster - after being sworn in on Wednesday morning.

There was an early intervention from Falkirk West Independent MSP Dennis Canavan, who complained about that the ballot was being held in secret.

"We should be behaving as an open democracy and not as a secret society," he said.

[ image: Dennis Canavan: Early intervention]
Dennis Canavan: Early intervention
Mr Canavan asked the temporary Presiding Officer Winnie Ewing if she would accept a motion asking for the procedure to be open.

But Mrs Winnie Ewing told him: "Mr Canavan, my heart is with you but the standing orders are against you."

The vote for two deputy presiding officers, whose status is equal, was less clear-cut. In the first round, Labour's Patricia Ferguson and George Reid, SNP, polled 54 each.

The Consevatives' John Young received 17 votes, meaning he dropped out. In the second ballot, Ms Ferguson won 66 votes, to Mr Reid's 59, meaning she was elected first deputy presiding officer.

Mr Reid took the second post in the third round of voting, where he beat Mr Young.

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