Christine Grahame fell at the first hurdle yesterday in her bid to become Presiding Officer at Holyrood, writes Bob Burgess.
Six days after savouring victory in the Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderale constituency came the taste of defeat.
In a three-way encounter between party colleague Tricia Marwick and Labour’s Hugh Henry, Grahame came bottom of the poll paving the way for a head-to-head between Marwick and Henry.
Grahame polled 32 votes; Henry 49 and Marwick, who chaired the Waverley Rail Committee for two years, 45 votes.
After the second ballot Marwick polled 73 votes against Henry’s 55 to secure the post.
Among the first to congratulate Marwick was Christine Grahame.
Ms Grahame would have had to abandon political allegiances with her party and become apolitical in the chamber. She made it known publicly on Monday that she was throwing her hat into the ring.
She was the first member of the newly-elected parliament to make her intentions known, followed a day later by Labour’s Hugh Henry.
When nominations closed at 2.15pm yesterday, the field consisted of Grahame, Henry and fellow SNP Tricia Marwick. Ballot papers were quickly printed and MSPs filed into polling booths under the watchful eye of outgoing Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson.
Explaining her decision to stand prior to yesterday’s vote, Ms Grahame declared: “I am known in Parliament as an independent-minded backbencher, and that is the same way I would approach the task of Presiding Officer.
“I have always championed the cause of backbenchers being given a fair crack of the whip – and that is even more important than ever now we have a majority in parliament for the first time.
And she declared: “I have the experience to do the job, having been an MSP since 1999 and having chaired three committees in that time.
“Parliament needs to be a forum for robust, lively and interesting exchanges, and I would ensure that backbenchers have more of a say and also look at ways of making debates more interesting and relevant.
“Holyrood needs a strong, independent-minded voice in the chair. I can provide that, and I’m appealing for support in my bid from all sides of the chamber and confirm that if elected it is my intention to consult on an ad hoc and regular basis with senior backbenchers to improve the operation of the chamber from debates through to oral and First Minister questions, among other matters.”
Jeremy Purvis – the Lib Dem incumbent defeated by Ms Grahame last week – declined to be drawn on her decision to stand for the post. He told TheSouthern he would not be a commentator from the sidelines.
The decision by Alex Salmond to push for having one of his own in the chair was being seen as part of his determination to make the most of his historic overall majority.
Election Special, pages 10 & 11