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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 September, 2004, 10:16 GMT 11:16 UK
Holyrood opens for business
Jack McConnell addresses MSPs
Jack McConnell unveiled his legislative programme
MSPs have been challenged to live up to their surroundings at the first session in the new Scottish Parliament.

The parliament has been dogged by controversy, but First Minister Jack McConnell said what mattered was what MSPs did in the "stunning" building.

He unveiled a legislative programme which included a bill to protect children from sexual predators.

The Scottish National Party's Holyrood group leader Nicola Sturgeon said MSPs had to start delivering "real change".

The day began with a hiccup when a problem with the doors temporarily delayed some visitors gaining access to the building.

Jack McConnell
We are here to help people to realise their ambitions, their hopes and their dreams
Jack McConnell
First Minister

However, a spokesman said those affected were in place in time to watch the start of the new session.

Presiding Officer George Reid was the first to speak in the new chamber at 0930 BST.

The Reverend Charles Robertson, minister at the nearby Canongate Kirk, then led the first Time for Reflection at Holyrood.

Mr McConnell began his speech by passing on his condolences to the people of Russia following the tragic siege in Beslan.

A round of applause rippled through the chamber when Mr McConnell paid tribute to the skills and expertise of those who had worked on the new building.

"This is a stunning building - built, I know, with controversy and argument, but built too to capture the promise of devolution and the challenge to all of us to meet that promise.

Pay tribute

"It is a credit to all of those who have worked hard and long over many months to design and build it.

"I pay tribute to their skills and expertise and I thank them for their hard work."

He said that the parliament was the realisation of the vision of two people - late First Minister Donald Dewar and architect Enric Miralles.

Holyrood chamber
MSPs sat in the chamber for the first time
But he added: "For the people of Scotland, it is not this building that really matters - it is what we do in this building that really matters.

"We are here to help people to realise their ambitions, their hopes and their dreams. We are here because they have placed their trust in us.

"They want a parliament of vibrant debate and passionate argument."

Mr McConnell then announced the Scottish Executive's legislative plans for the coming year.

They included a crackdown on paedophiles who use the internet to groom youngsters, as well as proposals covering the reform of Scots law, transport and education.

Ms Sturgeon said the opening of the parliament was an "important and momentous" day for the country.

We will have to spend the next five years building respect for the Scottish Parliament because that is what people expect of us
David McLetchie
Scottish Conservative leader
"This building, which has been mired in much controversy, now stands as our best hope of restoring confidence in Scottish self-government.

"But that will only happen if we all of us live up to the grandeur of our surroundings and start delivering real change for the people of Scotland," she said.

Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie said: "Today is a new beginning and as a patriotic Scot it upsets me that this parliament has become a source of shame as opposed to pride.

"We have spent five years building this parliament and we will have to spend the next five years building respect for the Scottish Parliament because that is what people expect of us."

Speaking before the start of the new session, Mr Reid called for an end to the pessimism surrounding devolution and the 431m building, which should have been completed three years ago.

He suggested next week's publication of Lord Fraser's Holyrood Inquiry report could bring "closure" to the controversy.

The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"No expense has been spared here at Holyrood"

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