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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 May, 2003, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Oath protest as MSPs start work
Rosie Kane
Rosie Kane makes her protest

The Scottish Socialists started the new parliamentary session with protests during the swearing in of Scotland's newly-elected MSPs at Holyrood.

All 129 members of the parliament were required to give an oath of allegiance to the Queen before being able to start work.

Scottish Socialist party leader Tommy Sheridan made a short statement before taking the oath.

He said: "I and my party colleagues were elected on a clear and honest commitment to an independent Socialist Scotland, a Socialist republic, a Scotland of citizens not a Scotland of subjects.

"We will continue to fight for such a Scotland."

Oath wording
I (Member's Name), do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Her Heirs and Successors, according to Law. So help me God.

Colin Fox, one of Mr Sheridan's five party colleagues in the parliament, sang Robert Burns' egalitarian "A Man's A Man for A' That" as his protest before being moved to the end of the queue by Presiding Officer Sir David Steel.

He sang for nearly a minute while Sir David told him: "I'm sorry, there's no singing in parliament. Order...

"I'm sorry, if you are not prepared to take the oath, you have to wait until the end of the queue."

Despite his microphone being turned off, Mr Fox persisted with the song then returned to his seat after Sir David had called the next MSP for the second time.

Fellow socialist MSP Rosie Kane, who said last week her party would bring "craziness" to the parliament, had written "My oath is to the people" on the palm of her hand, which she held up as she took the affirmation.

Robin Harper
Robin Harper: "People are sovereign"

Robin Harper gave the formal affirmation but also declared: "On behalf of the Scottish Green Party I wish to affirm that our priority will be to serve the people of Scotland who are sovereign in this land."

John Swinney took the oath but said first: "On behalf of my colleagues can I confirm the prime loyalty of the Scottish National Party is to the people of Scotland, in the constitutional tradition of the sovereignty of the people."

The appointment of Sir David's successor was the first item of business after the swearing-in ceremony.

Scottish National Party veteran George Reid was elected unopposed as the only name on the secret ballot for the post.

Affirmation wording
I (Member's Name), do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Her Heirs and Successors, according to Law.

He was one of Sir David's deputies in the last parliament.

Even with only one nomination there had to be a vote as the appointment had to win the support of a majority of those voting, with at least 25% of MSPs taking part in the poll.

Mr Reid took the chair after receiving 113 votes, with seven against and nine abstentions.

The presiding officer has to give up voting rights and act as an non-partisan chair, business manager and international ambassador for Holyrood.

Meanwhile, coalition talks between Labour and the Liberal Democrats are set to continue into the evening, with transport moving to the top of the agenda.

Negotiators said "good progress" was made during the first day of talks on Tuesday.

SSP MSP Colin Fox
"A Man's A Man For A' That"

BBC Scotland's political editor Brian Taylor
"Nationalists took the oath under protest, as did the Greens."

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