Tricia Marwick reveals summer cancer struggle

Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick has revealed that she has been battling cancer in the summer. Picture: Andrew Cowan
Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick has revealed that she has been battling cancer in the summer. Picture: Andrew Cowan
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POLITICIANS have paid tribute to the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick after she revealed that she has been battling cancer.

Ms Marwick has disclosed that she spent the summer recovering from an operation to remove a tumour from her bowel, just months after having her gall bladder taken out.

Until now, she has declined to speak publicly about her illness because she did not want people to feel sorry for her while she chaired combative parliamentary debates and refereed First Minister’s Questions.

The MSP praised the care she received from staff at Kirkcaldy’s Victoria Hospital, which helped her recover and get back to work after the summer recess.

At Holyrood, it was known that the Presiding Officer had been poorly, but the nature of her illness was kept a closely guarded secret.

“Everything was focused on getting back to work as quickly as I could. It was quite complex reasons why I didn’t want to talk about it,” she said.

“What I did not want to do was be in the chair at First Minister’s Questions or a debate and anybody holding back because they felt sorry for me, or taking it easy on me. I thought it was far, far better they just treated me absolutely as normal and that’s why very few people, only those closest to me, knew I had cancer. Now I’m happy to talk about it.”

Yesterday Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said she was delighted that the Presiding Officer had recovered.

She said: “I was delighted when the Presiding Officer told me the good news about her cancer battle. Tricia is a force of nature and all members were pleased to have her back in the chair and taking charge.

“We lost too many MSP colleagues to cancer this year and it’s just so pleasing to know that Tricia is on the mend.”

This year saw the passing of MSPs Brian Adam of the SNP, the Conservatives’ David McLetchie and Labour’s Helen Eadie.

In an interview published yesterday, the Glenrothes and Mid Fife MSP said 2013 had been a “very challenging year health-wise”.

Her gall bladder had been removed in January, but she began to feel ill again in April. Tests in June revealed that she had a tumour on her bowel.

“So, I had the tumour removed. I was off for about four weeks, recovered over the summer and I’m back. It was extremely challenging. I was very, very ill in the period between April and June. I had lost two and half stone in weight and it was a difficult time in here just keeping it all together as well as just feeling absolutely awful.

“I had made a decision quite early on that I wouldn’t talk about it until I was over the worst of it. So, to most people they weren’t aware that anything was wrong because I was very, very conscious and wanted to continued to focus on the job that I do because being Presiding Officer is a job that I love.”

Ms Marwick has also spoken of her determination to reform Holyrood, saying parliamentary committee conveners should be elected by MSPs.

Having politicians vote for committee conveners would send a message that they are there “primarily to act in the interests of the Parliament and not their own political party”.

As the largest party, the SNP has tended to dominate the committee system since it won an overall majority in 2011.

Ms Marwick said she “is absolutely committed” to reforming the Parliament, and that she may restrict the time party leaders get to question Alex Salmond at First Minister’s Questions if talks do not manage to achieve this.

It is “unacceptable” that the time backbench MSPs get to question the First Minister is limited because of the length of the exchanges between Mr Salmond and opposition leaders, she said.