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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 March 2007, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK
MSPs reflect on last day of term
By Andrew Black
Political reporter,
BBC Scotland news website

Scottish Parliament chamber
MSPs were on buoyant form on the last day of Parliament
Anyone who sat in on the last Holyrood debate before the 2007 Scottish election would have been forgiven for thinking it was the official launch to the election campaign.

The last day of term got off to a rowdy start with a debate on the "Future of Scotland" and, with no whips in action or motions to discuss, the event was a political free-for-all.

First up was First Minister Jack McConnell who listed Labour's achievements - and promised more.

He recalled growing up in a Scotland which had much to offer, including its "sporting prowess" (notwithstanding Wednesday night's 2-0 defeat to Italy) - while moving quickly to distance himself from his early political leanings.

Mr McConnell said that, as a teenager, he thought the political creed of nationalism might offer Scotland the future it needed.

"I also believed in Santa Claus," he added.

As he espoused the importance of the Union, departing Conservative Phil Gallie, in typically mischievous form, asked whether the first minister would endorse a recent Orange march in Edinburgh on that very issue.

"It might be unwise for me to comment," said Mr McConnell. "I do welcome the fact that there was no trouble."

SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon was next to rise to her feet saying that, in government, her party would oppose nuclear power and nuclear weapons and bring prosperity before holding a referendum on independence.

And in reference to UK Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt referring to the first minister as "Jack McDonnell" in an interview, she added: "When Alex Salmond is first minister, no-one will forget his name."

Scots Tory leader Annabel Goldie proclaimed that the only two games in town during the election campaign were "devolution or isolation" and that her party would campaign on bread and butter issues.

"Unionism is in our DNA", she said, quoting one David Cameron.

Liberal Democrat leader Nicol Stephen said the future of Scotland was about its one million young people and home rule had to be for their advantage.

World events

And commenting on the level of noise made by MSPs for their respective leaders, he glanced round to his troops, noting that he would be "studying the tapes later".

He recalled important events which had taken place during his time in elected office, such as the end of the Cold War.

Cue Mr Gallie for one last intervention, who asked Mr Stephen to join him in congratulating former Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for her part in supporting the end of the Eastern Bloc.

But the Lib Dem leader failed to take the bait - and instead chose to congratulate supporters of democracy the world over.


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