Scotland politics

A year in the Scottish Parliament - 2013

Scottish Parliament chamber

At Holyrood in 2013, one issue towered over all others - the independence referendum, which takes place on Thursday, 18 September, next year.

And outside the debate on Scotland's future, day-to-day business at the parliament has provided plenty of memorable and moving moments in both committee rooms and the chamber.

Here, is a handful of highlights.......

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Welfare reform

Image caption Lesley McMurchie, who has MS, spoke to the committee

The UK government's controversial welfare reforms led to the creation of Holyrood's Welfare Reform Committee.

At points during the year, it took evidence from those affected by the changes.

5 February 2013

Marlene Hepburn, whose husband was seriously ill; Ian Megahy who suffers from fibromyalgia and Lesley McMurchie who has Multiple Sclerosis told their stories.

10 September 2013

MSPs on the committee again heard moving evidence, this time on the affect of the UK government's "spare room subsidy" policy, which is also labelled the "bedroom tax" by its critics.

Scott Wilson who has Parkinson's disease; Anne Bradley and Lyndsay Ferry, who gave evidence on behalf of her mother Linda Kennedy, spoke to the committee's members.

Time to be heard

26 March 2013

Child abuse victims and campaigners gave brave and emotive evidence to the Health Committee on the creation of a National Confidential Forum (NCF) for adults placed in institutional care as children.

MSPs heard from David Whelan, from Former Boys and Girls Abused in Quarriers Homes (FBGA), Jim Kane, from In Care Abuse Survivors, and Helen Holland and Chris Daly, who had petitioned the parliament.

The measure to create the NCF was in the Victims and Witnesses Bill which was passed after its final debate on 12 December 2013.

Political legacies

18 April 2013

Image caption The political legacies of Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher were debated in Holyrood

The debate on Margaret Thatcher's legacy, led by Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie, was postponed by a day after Scottish Conservatives and Lib Dems criticised the original plans to hold it on the day of Lady Thatcher's funeral.

Not surprisingly the debate itself was passionate and divisive.

Towards the end of the year a more consensual tribute was led by opposition party leaders following the death of Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa.

Climate change miss

27 June 2013

During a statement on the government's greenhouse gas emissions annual target. Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse said missing the government's climate change target for the second consecutive year was "exceedingly disappointing".

However, Mr Wheelhouse remained confident that with additional measures, Scotland's historic target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 42% by 2020 could still be met.

On pause or fast forward?

3 September 2013

Image caption Alex Salmond said there would be 13 new bills in the 2013-14 governmental programme

Alex Salmond set out the Scottish government's legislative programme for 2013-14, with opposition parties attacking the programme in the debate that immediately followed his statement.

There were 13 new bills in the legislative programme for 2013-14, including measures to overhaul the civil courts, introduce a licensing system for air weapons and ending the right to buy for council tenants.

Mr Salmond also announced automatic early release from prison for the most serious violent and sexual offenders would be scrapped.

The SNP government's offering appeared not enough for the opposition party leaders, with Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont saying the programme was "unambitious, lacklustre and moribund".

Walker scandal

10 September 2013

Holyrood voted to dock the pay of MSPs who had been jailed, after a debate on the issue.

The move came after former Dunfermline MSP Bill Walker was convicted and imprisoned after being found guilty of 23 counts of domestic abuse.

The measure was only backed after protests from some MSPs that the plan was being rushed through.

Industrial relations

Image caption Workers at Grangemouth walked out of the plant over a dispute with owners Ineos

8 October 2013

The Scottish government confirmed it was seeking to take Prestwick Airport into public ownership in an emergency statement to MSPs.

29 October 2013

The relief all round the chamber was palpable after Ineos reversed its decision to shut the Grangemouth petrochemical plant, after the union agreed to the operator's conditions.

During a ministerial statement on the industrial relations dispute, Finance Secretary John Swinney insisted the Grangemouth refinery and petrochemical plant had a "strong and prosperous future".

7 November 2013

Workers at shipyards in Govan and Scotstoun, on the River Clyde in Glasgow, and Rosyth faced the news of 800 job losses. This followed an announcement by BAE owners that almost 1,800 workers in its shipyards across the UK would be made redundant.

The issue of the future of the shipyards on the Clyde was raised by all three opposition party leaders during first minister's questions, with Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon standing in for Alex Salmond.

After initial consensus over concern for the work force, the issue of shipbuilding in an independent Scotland dominated the heated exchanges.

Independence Referendum

14 November 2013

MSPs passed the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill after its final stage debate.

The legislation sets out the referendum rules, such as the question to be asked, campaign spending limits and the date of the referendum, which will be held on 18 September 2014.

Voters will be asked the yes/no question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the bill was a "historic piece of legislation" which had been "designed and delivered here in Scotland".

27 June 2013

Before Holyrood's summer recess, MSPs passed the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Bill, after its final debate in parliament.

The legislation will allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in next year's Scottish independence referendum.

Independence White Paper

26 November 2013

Image caption The White Paper was published by the Scottish government

Controversy was sparked over the launch of the hugely anticipated Scottish government independence White Paper, with opposition parties criticising the unveiling of the document at Glasgow Science Centre and not to MSPs at parliament.

However, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made a ministerial statement on the historic document at Holyrood after the morning launch.

The next day Alex Salmond led the debate on his government's 670 page blueprint for independence, warning of the "severest cuts in political history" if voters rejected the chance to "vote yes" in the referendum.

Opposition party leaders attacked the first minister and the White Paper, with Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont saying Mr Salmond's speech was "rooted entirely in negativity and grievance".

Gay marriage

Image caption The gay marriage bill will come before Holyrood again next year

20 November 2013

MSPs backed the general principles of the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill, after one of the most personal and impassioned debates of the year.

At decision time, 98 MSPs voted in favour of the bill's principles; 15 voted against and there were five abstentions.

The proposed legislation will face its final parliamentary hurdle next year.

Public Petitions

26 November 2013

The Public Petitions Committee continued to give a voice to ordinary members of the public - resulting in numerous petitioners giving compelling evidence throughout the year.

One of the many outstanding evidence sessions came when Robert Watson called on the Scottish government to provide respite care for younger adults with severe disabilities in Scotland.

Mr Watson, 28, who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic condition which leads to muscle wasting, gave powerful evidence on his petition PE1499.

Mr Watson and Kyle Kelly, another adult with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, were appearing before the Public Petitions Committee to call for the creation of suitable respite services for younger disabled adults with life-limiting conditions on behalf of the What About Us? Campaign group (formerly CHAS Young Adult Council).

Helicopter tragedies

Image caption Ten people lost their lives after a police helicopter crashed into a Glasgow pub

3 December 2013

At the beginning of December, there was a ministerial statement by Alex Salmond which united the chamber.

All party leaders expressed condolences to the families and friends of those killed or injured in the Glasgow helicopter tragedy.

There was also unity in the praise of the emergency services and people of Glasgow who had helped those inside the Clutha pub when a Police Scotland helicopter fell onto the building.

Ten people died following the incident.

4 September 2013

Earlier in the year four people died in a Super Puma helicopter crash off Shetland raising concerns over North Sea helicopter safety.

Finance Secretary John Swinney gave a statement on the tragedy.

MSPs 2013

The parliament sadly lost three highly respected MSPs this year with the passing of Brian Adam, Helen Eadie and David McLetchie.

2 May 2013

Former SNP minister and Aberdeen Donside MSP Brian Adam was praised by leaders from across the political divide for his contribution to Scottish politics and his bravery in the face of illness.

3 September 2013

Leaders from all parties paid warm tribute to Conservative Lothian MSP David McLetchie, who died in August.

20 November 2013

The chamber was united again when it heard all the leaders pay moving tribute to Labour MSP Helen Eadie, who represented Cowdenbeath at Holyrood.