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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 07 March 2017

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (Information-sharing Provisions), International Women’s Day, Point of Order, Decision Time, Local Government Finance (Debt Amnesty)


Time for Reflection

Good afternoon. The first item of business this afternoon is time for reflection, which will be led by the Rev Alastair Symington, former minister of Troon Old Parish Church and former chaplain to the Queen and convener of HM forces chaplains.

The Rev Alastair Symington (Former Minister, Troon Old Parish Church, and Former Chaplain to the Queen)

Soon I reach the age of 70. Once, it was an allocation of three score years and 10, and phrases such, as, “I’m now living on borrowed time,” were commonplace. It is not like that now, and if 60 is the new 40, surely 70 is the new 50.

That positive outlook does not prevent me from being irritated by press stories describing “an elderly man of 70”. On the way home to Troon, there is a road sign advising motorists that elderly people are likely to be crossing, but why does it show a stooped figure? Being stooped is because of a medical condition, not because of age. If anyone tried to tell my fellow golfers at Troon, aged 60 to 80, that they are elderly and therefore must be stooped, they would get short shrift.

The people of the Old Testament had an admirable custom. As people entered or left a city through the gates, which were north, south, east and west, they would pass the elders, who sat there and offered their wisdom to the younger people. It was a mature custom and a blessing to the nation. I could not get away with advocating today that the elderly should sit at the Cowgate or Netherbow in Edinburgh and that those passing by should have to listen to them, but I am bold enough to suggest that we are not ready for the scrap heap.

Sometimes in public discussion, we talk of the future of our country. It concerns us all, whatever affiliation members have here or the public have in the community, but I would like to hear a little bit less of how the future belongs chiefly to the young. For I, too, have a future. It concerns me and my age group. We have a voice. We have a valid voice, and if we were to grasp the wisdom of Israel, the public perception might be to accept that there is a wisdom in the older members of society. No age group or gender or colour or creed can dominate another.

We have a Queen who has led us for 21 years since she turned 70. We have freedom gained under a Prime Minister who was over 70 when the last war ended. We even have Mick Jagger becoming a father again at the age of over 70. I do not want to emulate any of those people in any respect, but I have a voice, and I do have a future.