Sworn in, berths claimed, security passes grinned for, offices allocated: there’s no going back.  If any of the 48 new boys and girls at Holyrood had any niggling doubts about what the next five years might hold, well it’s too late now.  You’re in and we’re stuck with you.

So, congratulations all and welcome.  The burd looks forward to making your acquaintance in the weeks and months to come.  The start of a new parliamentary session is always exciting watching the shiny new faces arrive and wondering who will be quick off the blocks to make their mark.

Over the years, far too many have allowed the size, scale and scope of the place and the role to simply swallow them up.  There is an artform to keeping and looking busy which many have perfected, but it would be good if we can break that mould.

For all the hullabaloo about a lack of powers, the issues which Holyrood controls or touches upon is of a huge range.  Yet, week in, week out, we hear about the same narrow faultlines.  Many important matters are kept hidden under a bushel, or rather out of the limelight, by accident or design.  If the burd could be so bold as to offer the new MSPs one piece of advice, it would be this:  find an issue, make it your own, shine a light into dark corners, generate public and media interest, make change happen.

Aside from settling in – please don’t settle down – there’s plenty to keep the newbies busy.  Who might shine and soar?  Here’s the burdz ten to watch:

  1. Margaret Burgess, SNP MSP for Cunninghame South. Margaret managed to get herself elected as a councillor way back in the mists of time when the height of the SNP’s ambition was the odd seat at Westminster and saving deposits was all the rage.  She’s been a party stalwart for years but has a rich and varied social justice hinterland in her working and personal life to call on.  A Citizens Advice Bureau manager for many years, she has seen what deprivation does first hand.  Holyrood needs more MSPs to articulate the impact of this recession and the difficulties that will result for many vulnerable families and groups in our society from cuts to public services.  She won’t want to make waves or trouble for her leadership but is canny enough to know that there are ways and means to making herself – and the voiceless – heard.  The burd for one is glad she has a berth deserving of her talents.
  2. Mike MacKenzie, SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands region.  Made it into Holyrood by the skin of his teeth, here is someone we could all grow to like:  a businessman with a social conscience.  He has been a successful entrepreneur, providing much needed employment and infrastructure in the Oban area, has supported modern apprenticeships and set up a successful community social enterprise.  Expect someone who thinks and sees issues differently, who is task oriented and solution focused.  He may find himself frustrated by the semantics and boundaries of politics or he may find the way to cut through the crap.  I hope it’s the latter.  We need MSPs to offer something different.
  3. Jenny Marra, Labour MSP for North East Scotland region.  Intelligent, talented, bright, vivacious.  Yep, the girl has it all.  Oh, and a USP as the niece of folk legend and Dundonian, Michael Marra.  This is one wee star who will soar.  Media friendly, with an intellect and the education to back it up, she may be a bit wet behind the ears and spent much of her life in the political bubble, but that’s not a detraction from her undoubted skills.  Expect lots of salivating journos beating a path to her door for feature pieces.  If she chooses her moments and issues carefully, she will go far.
  4. Marco Biagi, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central.  Gonnae say that oath in Italian again, please Marco?!  Another with a ferocious intellect and the graduation certificates to back it up, Salmond referred to Marco as the party’s resident psephologist but the boy’s talents are much greater than this.  A policy wonk who will have to learn fast how to transfer these skills into people ones in order to turn a surprise win into a safe hold, Marco should do very well.  Here’s hoping he can orate as well as he thinks and liven up debates.  Or at least just bamboozle them with knowledge.  Preferably in Italian.
  5. Joan McAlpine, SNP MSP for South of Scotland region A high achiever by anyone’s standards.  One of the few women journalists ever to edit one of Scotland’s foremost blatts, Joan also formed one half of the SNP’s most glamorous couple, when married to musician and writer, Pat Kane.  Played a key role in the media team during this election campaign, she could be a contender for an early Ministerial role, something culture oriented perhaps, as Salmond is quite fond of pigeon holing folk.  She should be a super soaraway star but… there is a teensy risk that the transition from journalist to parliamentarian could prove an ultimately frustrating one.
  6. Graeme Pearson, Labour MSP for South of Scotland region.  One of the few MSPs breaking the traditional Labour mould, Pearson is a former high ranking police officer.  He was the first Director-General of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency and as an Assistant Divisional Commander at Strathclyde, introduced the controversial youth curfew pilot in Hamilton and also the first CCTV cameras to Airdrie town centre.  Yep, he’s to blame, and probably had a hand in Labour’s mandatory knife crime sentencing policy too.  Expect a strident but informed voice on crime issues.  If he wants a long career, he might want to think about how he can make a more thoughtful contribution to reforming our criminal justice system.
  7. Ruth Davidson, Conservative MSP for Glasgow. Ah, you’ve got to like a girl with boundless ambition.  Two minutes in the door as an MSP and already touting herself – or at least her supporters are – as a possible leadership contender in the autumn.  Whatever the rank and file think, the Tories need bright young things with a different background – TA volunteer and lesbian, no less – to start the process of detoxifying the brand.  With the lamented demise of Derek Brownlee, expect Ruth to slip seamlessly into his role as media commentator.  But she needs to prove there is substance to match the sizzle.
  8. Paul Wheelhouse, SNP MSP for South of Scotland. I’ll declare an interest – he’s a pal and few results made me happier than this one.  Hardworking, loyal, quiet, thoughtful and intelligent.  And that’s on a bad day.  By his own efforts, he’s turned a safe Conservative constituency into one that’s on a shoogly peg, recruiting a willing team to support him in the process.  These are real politician’s skills.  And he’s another policy wonk:  an economist with a keen understanding of further and higher education issues and if anyone was your man to lay bare the impact of PPP capital projects on the public purse, Paul is.  I don’t have to hope that he will do well:  I know he will.
  9. Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothians.  Well, at least Patrick got a buddy back and how nice that the Scottish Greens are perfectly gender balanced.  On the surface, she seems a bit of ying to Patrick’s yang and that is another good thing. Alison’s bright, feisty, committed, telegenic, but if she wanted to ease herself into the role, she’s in for a shock.  With only two players, both Greens need to be operating at full tilt from the outset.  She’s definitely got something to offer and there is a niche with her name on it.  She just needs to find it fast and hold to it too.  Ditching the cooncil ward in 2012 will help.
  10. Humza Yousaf, SNP MSP for Glasgow.  Well, he’s already stolen the show with that wonderful bagpipes and bhangra outfit at the sweary-in ceremony.  He’s intelligent, articulate, a poster boy for new Scots, but with a refreshing honesty and confidence, as well as a good heart.  His track record in community activism would shame many politicians twice his age.  Humza represents all that the SNP is trying to promote to Scotland and expect him to be promoted lang and weary as a spokesperson.  There’s a risk he could become ubiquitous and he’d do well to sit back for a moment and choose his course, if he doesn’t want to burn out.  And not to lose his tendency to be ever so slightly off message on occasion.  It’s all about standing out from that very big crowd of 69 when the moment is right.  I’ll go so far as to punt him as the next but one SNP leader.