Yesterday in Edinburgh the newly elected Members of the Scottish Parliament came together to begin a five year Parliament.
As well as being the first to feature a single party with a majority, this session will be a year longer than those previous, in order that Scotland’s next election does not clash with the UK General Election scheduled for 2015.
After the ceremonial aspects were out of the way, including all MSPs being forced to swear allegiance to the monarch, our representatives got down to business.
There was another election to kick things off, with the SNPs Tricia Marwick being elected as the Parliament’s Presiding Officer. She was a clear victor against Labour’s Hugh Henry and her party colleague Christine Graham.
Marwick’s deputies in her new role, similar to that of the Speaker in the House of Commons, will be Labour’s Elaine Smith and Tory John Scott.
Some argued that the post of Presiding Officer should have gone to an opposition MSP, although there is nothing to stop someone from the governing party from taking the job. Indeed the first holder of the office was David Steele who oversaw a Labour – Liberal Democrat coalition. And Marwick will now resign from the SNP to ensure her neutrality.
It remains to be seen how the Parliament will operate with a majority government. As well as being in government, the SNP will also dominate the Committees that have the key role of scrutinising the government. And there is speculation that the SNP will elect one of its members to the key role of Convener of the Finance Committee.
Will all of this mean that we have an effective one party state? Or will backbench MSPs be given some latitude by SNP whips to play the role that Holyrood’s Committees have played so well in previous Parliaments? That remains to be seen.
Alex Salmond will, of course, be re-elected as First Minister next week. He will then announce his Cabinet, which is not expected to look too different form the one that governed in the last Parliament. There may be new faces in the ranks of junior ministers though.
The opposition parties are going to have a difficult time with it, especially as the three main ones are all facing leadership elections.
Tavish Scott has resigned with immediate effect as Liberal Democrat leader. Willie Rennie is the heavy favourite for the post, not that he has a great number of potential opponents amongst a group of just five MSPs.
For the Conservatives, Annabelle Goldie will remain as leader until the autumn. New rules are being drawn up for the governance of the Tory party in Scotland and nothing will happen until there are agreed and implemented.
And Iain Gray will also remain as leader of his party despite resigning. For now Jackie Baillie is the favourite to become the next Labour leader, with Ken McIntosh, John Park and current deputy leader Johan Lamont all likely to stand. Veteran left winger Malcolm Chisolm may also be a candidate. But much could change before the election actually takes place in the autumn.
The aftermath of Scotland’s historic election leaves Alec Salmond in a position of almost impregnable strength. The next few weeks will see the First Minster set out his plans for the years ahead – and all eyes will be on his plans for an independence referendum.
It’s going to be an interesting time in Scottish politics.