With the recent announcement of Speaker John Bercow’s intention to stand down on October 31st there has been a lot of interest in who may put their hat in the ring to replace him. I was one of John’s sponsors when he stood for the position of Speaker in 2009 and have since observed him become one of the most effective and successful Speakers of recent times. He has championed Parliament, reinforced the role of backbenchers and has been fearless in standing up to Government when required. John will be sorely missed and provides a fine example of what a reforming Speaker can achieve.
In May I said that I would be interested in standing for the position of Speaker if and when that position became available, but today I confirm that I will no longer be seeking a nomination for that role.
Since then the First Minister has introduced the Referendums Bill and has stated her intention to seek a referendum on Scottish independence in the autumn of next year, a referendum which I am certain will be won. I will not therefore have sufficient time to pursue my wide ranging agenda of reform. I also believe that it would not be fair to have a further election for Speaker in a few years following the departure of Scottish MPs from Westminster in the very slim chance that I would be successful.
My bid for the Speakership was done with the full understanding that it would be highly unlikely to be successful as a representative of the third party with only 35 MPs. Part of my motivation for standing was to highlight the absurdity of some of the mechanics and procedures of the House of Commons, to contrast it with what is happening in Scotland, and use it to detail why Scotland should play no further part in Westminster’s proceedings. A competition around the Speakership would provide an excellent opportunity to promote the case for Scotland’s independence by proposing how we could do things differently in an independent Scotland. It would also have been an opportunity to poke a gentle stick at the whole Westminster political establishment. That opportunity will now be lost in a competition that will be exclusively contested by unionist MPs.
There were some who interpreted my standing as some sort of lack of ‘commitment’ about securing independence or a ‘desire’ to stay at Westminster. Where this could not have been further from the truth I just can not be bothered in responding any longer to these absurd assertions. I was intending to stand in a contest where I knew I had no chance of winning as a means to promote the cause of independence.
I did put forward a serious and far reaching agenda of reform which included electronic voting, equality in speaking arrangements, tackling the undemocratic House of Lords and even ‘clapping’ as a show of appreciation to contributions in the House. I will now be looking at the other Speaker candidates to examine if any of them are prepared to promote some of that agenda.
Can I thank the many colleagues, from all parties, who said that they would be prepared to give me their support and to my constituents who were genuinely interested in me seeking the Speakership. I now look forward to defending my parliamentary seat in the forthcoming General election and, as I have for the past 18 years as a Parliamentarian, working flat out to secure my nations’s independence and sovereignty