This month saw the election of Alex Fergusson as the third Presiding Officer of The Scottish Parliament. The election for the Presiding Officer for this session was delayed. One of the most important aspects of the Presiding Officers' role is impartiality, and as such they lose their right to vote in debates. Because the election result was so close many parties did not want one of their MSPs to lose their vote and so discussion regarding the best person for the post took longer than in previous years.
The Presiding Officer is mostly seen chairing business within the chamber, keeping order and ruling on points of order. However there is also a strong diplomatic element to the role. The Presiding Officer will attend Royal functions, speak about Scotland and its Parliament all over the world and receive foreign delegations and British dignitaries who visit the Parliament building.
As well as his duties chairing the chamber and promoting the parliament, the Presiding Officer is also head of the Corporate Body and the Parliamentary Bureau. The Bureau meets weekly in private and decides on the business of the Parliament. The Corporate Body essentially deals with the management of the Parliament, including staff.
The equivalent position in Westminster is called the Speaker and tradition dictates that he or she should be dragged reluctantly to the chair when they take up the post. So far this has not been a tradition emulated in Scotland although Alex Fergusson may well have set the precedent.