On Monday 3 September 2007 the old Scottish Executive became the Scottish Government – the first truly Scottish government since the Union was imposed on the nation in 1707. The first democratic Scottish Government in history. Surely this makes today a very special anniversary.
In the elections for the third Scottish Parliament held on Thursday 3 May 2007 the SNP under the leadership of Alex Salmond won 47 seats, making them the largest party – one seat ahead of British Labour in Scotland (BLiS). Those were different times.
Initially, the SNP sought to negotiate a pact with the British Liberal Democrats in Scotland. When talks failed, Alex Salmond chose to form a minority administration. On 16 May 2007 Alex Salmond was elected First Minister of Scotland. A notable event in itself given what he went on to achieve.
When Alex Salmond took office his administration was known as the Scottish Executive. In the late 1990s when the devolution settlement was being dictated by the British parties, the British establishment had to be assured that the new Scottish Parliament would never pose a threat to their ‘precious’ Union. Scotland’s subordinate status in the Union had to be ensured and made evident. They did not want the Scottish people to think they had a real government. So it was called ‘Executive’ instead.
On this day in 2007 this situation was rectified when in accordance with one of Alex Salmond’s first acts as First Minister, the name ‘Scottish Executive’ was discarded and the Scottish Government was born.
This marked the start of a new era in Scottish history. The Scottish Parliament was becoming the locus of political life in Scotland. Scotland was developing its own distinctive political culture. A political culture which over the next decade and more would increasingly diverge from a British political culture that was to descend ever deeper into a mire of corruption, incompetence and tragicomic chaos.
Scotland was embarked on a journey which, with Alex Salmond at the helm, would take us to an SNP majority administration in 2011 and the first Scottish independence referendum in 2014.
There have been many special days in Scotland’s long history. Days made memorable by events both glorious and tragic. It is proper that we remember our history. It is fitting that we mark those days – whether it be in celebration or in sorrow. It is surely proper and fitting to commemorate the day our Scottish Government was formally recognised as such. We might also want to thank the individual who, perhaps more than anyone, brought about that day – Alex Salmond.