Scottish Parliament opening

3 – First meeting of the Scottish Parliament

May 12, 1999

THE Scottish Parliament is no stranger to political jousting.

So perhaps it’s appropriate that the origins of the seat of power lie in the days of knights.
The first recorded mention of a parliament was during the early 13th Century, when it gathered at the small town of Kirkliston on the outskirts of Edinburgh in 1235, during the reign of Alexander II of Scotland.

But fast forward 500 years to 1707 and the signing of the Treaty of Union with England saw the Scottish Parliament dissolved on April 28.

It would be 300 years before it would be resurrected north of the Border.

With the clamour for devolution gathering steam, in 1997 the Labour Party included in its General Election manifesto a commitment to consult Scots on proposals for a new Scottish Parliament.

The party swept to victory and once in Government they published the White Paper, ‘Scotland’s Parliament’, setting out their proposals.

On September 11 of that year a referendum on the matter was held – and the people of Scotland voted decisively in favour of a devolved Scottish Parliament.

A year later the Scotland Bill establishing the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive was passed by the UK Parliament and received royal assent.

There were just two things missing – MSPs to populate the parly and a building to house them in.

The Queen and then Scottish First Minister Donald Dewar MSP (PA Archive)
The Queen and then Scottish First Minister Donald Dewar MSP (PA Archive)


On May 6, 1999, the first elections to the Scottish Parliament were held, leading to the formation of a coalition government between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

It would be some time before their permanent home at Holyrood would be built, so in the meantime the Parliament set up temporarily at the General Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.

May 12, 1999, saw the dawn of a new chapter in Scottish political history – and future – when the first meeting of the Parliament took place.

It was officially opened by the Queen on July 1 – much to the delight of the ‘Father of the Parliament’, Donald Dewar – and Scotland has never looked back since.

Whether you agree with the decisions made there over the years, one thing is for sure – the Scottish Parliament is here to stay.

There may not be any knights in the parly these days, but to be fair it would be hard to imagine Nicola Sturgeon in a full suit of armour taking on Kezia Dugdale in a broadsword battle while Willie Rennie and Ruth Davidson look on from horseback.

Having said that, if you want to engage people in politics perhaps that’s not such a bad idea after all…