WHEN the Scottish Parliament was re-established in 1999, I was a student sitting in a common room yards from the Royal Mile and watching the ceremony unfold on a communal TV, hearing Concord and the Red Arrows roaring overhead as they simultaneously appeared on screen.

I didn’t know what a Scottish Parliament would be, what it would look like or how it would function.

I certainly didn’t think I’d ever sit in it. But, watching Donald Dewar’s opening speech, there was a line that touched a chord.

“This is about more than our politics and our laws. This is about who we are, how we carry ourselves.”

READ MORE: Gordon Brown named 'Best Scot at Westminster' by The Herald's panel of judges

We have, of course, not always risen to the occasion. Partisan tribes arguing over how to do things – or whether they should be done at all – can often, in voters’ eyes, descend into squabble and prompt a plague on all houses.

But there is a reason why, in less than 22 years, Holyrood has become the undisputed focal point of democracy in Scotland.

And when we have, collectively, risen to the occasion, I believe we have done our nation proud.

Whether it was showing the nimbleness a devolved parliament could have by passing its first act as a reactive bill – closing a dangerous loophole which allowed mentally ill offenders to be released – or legislation planned to proactively change the quality of life of our country’s citizens, such as introducing free personal care for the elderly, Holyrood has shown its value.

But it’s not just what it does – all parliaments pass laws – but how it goes about it.

One of my great pleasures in the time I have been a member is seeing colleagues from across the chamber champion issues of great import to them or their constituents and bring them to the chamber floor.

We have a strong record of private member’s bills being driven through, with or without adoption by the government, and I would point to recent notable successes from Labour’s Monica Lennon in securing the provision of free sanitary products and my own Conservative colleagues, Miles Briggs and Liam Kerr, who respectively brought changes to the law to extend free personal care to those under 65 with disabilities and degenerative conditions, and to make it an offence to harm or abuse a service animal in the line of duty.

READ MORE: Herald Politician of the Year Awards - A Labour perspective

And there’s not a single MSP who has sat on the public petitions committee – where individuals or groups can bring issues important to them before the Parliament and suggest legislation to address it – who hasn’t come away richer for the experience.

And to circle back to Donald Dewar’s original point about the Parliament being more than our politics and laws: there has also been legislation that has failed, but that was still instructive about how we carried ourselves.

Here I would highlight the Assisted Suicide Bill, which did not achieve a parliamentary majority, but which was brought forward by the Independent MSP Margo MacDonald with huge courage (though she would hate anyone saying so) during her long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

She did not live to see her bill brought to the chamber, but the issues it opened up enriched our national debate and I, for one, believe it is only a matter of time before the aims of the bill are achieved.

While I could write several essays on the independence referendum, Calman Commission, Smith Commission and Scotland Acts that added so many new powers and responsibilities to Holyrood down the decades, the piece of legislation which meant most to me personally was the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act, legislating for the marriage of same-sex couples.

When I was born it was still illegal to be gay and you could be prosecuted for being in a loving, consensual same-sex relationship.

The law we passed wiped away the last legal barrier separating gay people from their peers and told LGBT people everywhere that they had the same rights as everybody else.

Passing that bill was, and still is, my proudest day in politics. Not every day has seen the Parliament at its best.

And Dewar’s speech foresaw that “We are fallible, we all know that. We will make mistakes. But I hope and I believe we will never lose sight of what brought us here: the striving to do right by the people of Scotland.”

Irrespective of party colours, I think we can all sign up to that.