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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 28 May 2019

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1, Business Motion, Decision Time, Universal Credit and Mental Health


Time for Reflection

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

Good afternoon. Our first item of business is time for reflection, and our leader today is the Rev Dr Fiona Douglas MBE, university chaplain at the University of Dundee.

The Rev Dr Fiona Douglas MBE (University Chaplain, University of Dundee)

Presiding Officer and members of the Scottish Parliament, thank you for the opportunity to address you today.

“For everything there is a season,
And a time for every matter under heaven”.

For a university chaplain, this is a season of celebration. At graduation ceremonies across Scotland, we will rightly applaud our students’ academic achievements, toast their successes and wish them well on their future journeys. But it is also a time when we reflect on what we stand for as academic communities and on our common sense of purpose.

Our university forefathers claimed a moral mandate for what they did and for who they were. They believed that the purpose of education was to combine academic study with public virtue and service. Universities were essential builders of the common weal and learning in the fullest sense was about how to live well.

Such thinking embodied the work of Patrick Geddes, Victorian polymath, professor of botany at University College, Dundee from 1888 to 1919 and a Scottish pioneer of the environmental movement. He believed that education was a catalyst for social change; that interdisciplinarity was key to tackling the problems of the modern industrial age; that there was an intimate link between spatial form and social processes; and that the wellbeing of society depended on harmonious interaction between people and their environment.

At Geddes’s farewell lecture in Dundee, after asking his students

“How many people think twice about a leaf?”,

he said:

“Yet the leaf is the chief product and phenomenon of life. This is a green world, with animals comparatively few and small and all dependent upon the leaves. By leaves we live.”

These messages about active citizenship, about our connectivity and mutual dependencies and about conservation and sustainability are surely as relevant today as they were for Geddes. What better time to reflect on these matters as the Parliament celebrates its 20th anniversary. In the words of Geddes, “by creating we think” and “by living we learn”.

“For everything there is a season,
And a time for every matter under heaven”.

This is our time for new beginnings, for celebrating things past and for looking forward to all that is yet to be. With God’s grace, may we have the patience, strength and vision in all our working together to meet the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead.