Holyrood Garden Party and Political Awards

Garden Party 21 Gif

The Holyrood Garden Party and Political Awards is an unmissable fixture in the Scottish political calendar. This year, as Scotland rebuilds, the event is an opportunity to bring back some joy into all our lives.

A week has always been a long time in politics, but in this last year, time, politics and life itself have taken on a whole new dynamic. The pandemic forced us all into a national lockdown. We all had to adapt to a changed world. For the Scottish Parliament, that meant finding a new way to do politics.

But we have come through it and as we rebuild our country and reunite with friends, family and work colleagues, we are all ready to let down our hair.

In June 2018 Holyrood magazine launched the ‘Holyrood Garden Party and Political Awards’, a new gathering bringing together the body politic and its followers to have a good time, and a temporary ceasefire in political hostilities. Our awards were anything but po-faced, celebrating everything from the politician that had laid the most ‘flushable’ motion through to the MSPs that truly deserved to be called our ‘heroes’.

The Holyrood Garden Party quickly secured its place as the most unmissable event on the political calendar and in 2019 it was voted ‘Event of the Year’ in the annual Scottish magazine industry awards. 2019 was also the Scottish Parliament’s 20th anniversary and gave us an opportunity to celebrate the brilliant, the banal and the quite simply bizarre, not from just the past political year but also from two decades of devolution.

And then came COVID.

The 2020 garden party was cancelled. Our plans to mark the veterans that had first been elected in 1999 in the first parliament and who were now standing down at the end of the fifth were shelved. The ‘End of an Era’ went unmarked with the fizz put on ice.

And so, with the fifth parliament at an end and the election bringing with it a whole new crop of MSPs, this will be a celebration of the new session and a fitting closure to the old. Former MSPs, along with all those now sitting in the sixth parliament, will be honoured during the usual irreverent evening of politics, comedy and song.

NOTE: Nominations for the awards will cover the 2019 to 2020 parliamentary year the Garden Party missed because of the pandemic as well as the start of the new session. Awards run from June 2019 to July 2021 and can include former MSPs as well as current.

Former political adviser turned comedian Matt Forde will once again be MC for the evening, with MP4, the rock band made up of four MPs, providing some tunes… The format will be a pre-dinner drinks reception, tables for dinner, and a sprinkling of political awards and chat throughout that take a more satirical view of how politics is conducted and reported within the Scottish Parliament.

A new addition to this year’s event,  by popular demand from guests of previous years, is the ‘Editor’s Club’ after-party, which will take place in the John Hope Gateway at the Botanic Garden. The ‘Editor’s Club’ will be an altogether more sublime affair with music, dancing and ongoing chat. This will be a time to really kick back and relax. And with DJ Stuart Cosgrove spinning the decks, it will be soul all the way.

Tweet of the Day (June 2019 to July 2021) in association with ABinBev

This award will be presented to the MSP who has used Twitter to best effect to be witty, to inform and even to shut down critics. The judges will be looking for eloquence, dignity, humour and grace, and all in the best possible taste.

Political Hero of the Year (June 2019 to July 2021) in association with Diageo

Sometimes a cause or a campaign inspires a politician or a group of MSPs to cross party lines or to just work tirelessly to do the right thing. This award will go to an MSP who has gained respect from across the chamber for their work in championing a particular cause or for achieving a tangible result.

The End of an Era MSP (May 1999 to March 2021) in association with Holyrood Communications

On 2 July 2016, and in the wake of the divisive vote that was to take the UK out of the EU, the Queen formally opened the fifth session of the Scottish Parliament and stressed the need for calm. She acknowledged that leadership could sometimes be hard but added: “As this parliament has successfully demonstrated over the years, one hallmark of leadership in such a fast-moving world is allowing sufficient room for which we can enable deeper consideration of how challenges and opportunities can be best addressed.” On 25 March 2021, the Scottish Parliament went into recess ahead of the next Scottish Parliament election, marking the end of the fifth Scottish Parliament and of yet another political era. Which veteran MSP stands out as the one that most characterises the leadership required to have navigated us through all these challenging times?

Flushable Motion of the Year (June 2019 to July 2021) in association with Scottish Water

Parliamentary motions are used by MSPs as a way to initiate debate or suggest a particular course of action but increasingly have become more and more obtuse vehicles to offer support or endorse a particular product. They go from congratulating a local football team to questioning a reduction in the size of a chocolate bar. This award will recognise the most absurd motions to be lodged.

MSP of the Year (June 2019 to July 2021) in association with Aberdeen Standard

While awards of this nature tend to always be reserved for the party leaders, there are many talented MSPs who sit squarely behind the leader and help their star shine bright, so nominations for this award should cast the net a little wider than just the usual suspects and answer, ‘who has really shone?’

Speech of the Year (June 2019 to July 2021) in association with Port of Cromarty Firth

A good speech can silence the chamber, bring a tear to a glass eye and surprise in its ability to capture a moment in time. This award will go to the MSP who has managed to impress with their ability to articulate their views on an issue with passion, intellect and emotion.

Staffer of the Year (June 2019 to July 2021) in association with Coca Cola Europacific Partners

Awarded to someone who has demonstrated a real commitment to digging that bit deeper, going the extra mile and unearthing facts, figures and human stories that assist politicians in making good policy or in simply changing one person’s life.

Best Scot at Westminster (June 2019 to July 2021) in association with Chivas Brothers

Which parliamentarian has best made the case for Scottish interests at Westminster? Is there an MP that stands out for presenting Scotland in the best light, for pushing a Scottish cause and really standing up for their constituents and the nation?

Wag of the Year (June 2019 to July 2021) in association with Holyrood Communications

This award will go to the MSP that has kept us entertained throughout the year either by accident or design. Who has made the most entertaining speeches in the chamber, been the most self-deprecating, the greatest wit, or simply told the best jokes?

Open All Hours Award (June 2019 to July 2021) in association with Scottish Grocers' Federation

Which MSP gets your vote for going the extra mile to help their constituents, colleagues and staff, whose door is always open and for whom the words ‘business closed’ never feature? This is a parliamentarian who can be relied upon to get a job done and whose tenacity to get a problem fixed knows no bounds.

Backbencher of the Year (June 2019 to July 2021) in association with Falck/Bluefloat/Orsted

It takes a certain type of MSP to be able to make their presence felt without the natural platform of a frontbench position. Who has made themselves noticed, gone against a conventional party line or simply put forward a point that forcibly cuts through a lot of party-political rhetoric?

One to Watch (June 2019 to July 2021) in association with Drax 

The 2016 election may have seen a huge injection of new blood to the Scottish Parliament, with 40 per cent of the MSPs having never been elected before, but there are also others elected again who have continued to grow into the role. Who has made a mark in the debating chamber or gained a reputation in committee or who is the one to watch from the 2021 intake?

Lifetime Achievement Award in association with Royal Bank of Scotland

Awarded to someone who had dedicated their life to Scottish politics and has managed to cut across party-political boundaries to demonstrate a commitment to public service, statecraft and the democratic process. Someone woven into Scotland’s political fabric. (This award will not be open to nominations.)

Green Giant Award (June 2019 to July 2021) in association with Scottish Power

With the First Minister declaring a Climate Emergency and Glasgow being named as the host city for COP26, the fight against climate change raced up the political agenda during the last parliamentary session in Scotland. Which MSP has really embraced the challenge and made a difference to the environment?

Brian Taylor
Ken Macintosh Headshot
The Rt Hon Ken MacIntosh
Rachael Hamilton MSP Headshot
Rachael Hamilton
Mark Diffley
Michael Crow
Sir George Reid
Tricia Marwick
Kieran Andrews
Sir John Curtice
Neil Bibby
Pauline McNeill
Lord Cameron of Lochiel
Kate Forbes MSP
Mandy Rhodes
Kezia Dugdale

Who is organising the Political Garden Party & Awards?

Holyrood magazine is running the awards.

When and where is this being held?

The Political Garden Party & Awards will be held at the Royal Botanic Gardens on the 16th September, 18.30 start.

What is the format?

The format will be a pre-dinner drinks reception and networking, tables for dinner, and a sprinkling of political awards and chat throughout that take a more satirical view of how politics is conducted and reported within the Scottish Parliament. 

Is there a dress code?

The dress code is summer cocktail.

Can I book a table?

A table of ten costs £2000 + VAT. You can book your place by contacting us via the 'Book a Table' button on this page. 

Running Order

18:30 – Drinks reception
19:30 – Welcome from the host, Matt Forde  
20:10 – Dinner served 
21:45 – Awards ceremony
22:30 – Raffle and closing remarks 
22:40 – MP4  
23:00 – Editor’s Club After Party with DJ Stuart Cosgrove
02:00 – Carriages


Matt Forde is one of the country’s most in-demand satirists, and host of Dave’s ultra-topical political comedy show Unspun with Matt Forde which recently completed a fourth series. The show was nominated for Best Entertainment Programme at the 2017 Broadcast Digital Awards.

Matt’s TV appearances include The Royal Variety Performance (ITV), Have I Got News For You (BBC One), Mock the Week (BBC Two), Russell Howard’s Good News (BBC Three) and Question Time (BBC One). In 2017, Matt presented a regular segment on The One Show commenting on the highlights of the election campaign trail.

Following nationwide tours of his previous three shows, Matt took to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017 with ‘A Show Hastily Rewritten in Light of Recent Events’ which followed the political chaos of 2017 in the light of Brexit, the snap general election and Trump. The show toured the UK and was extended into 2018. Later this year, he returns to the Fringe with his latest show; Brexit Through the Gift Shop.

Matt hosts the monthly award-winning, sell-out show, The Political Party, performing his trademark topical current affairs stand-up, followed by an extended interview with a political heavyweight. Past guests have included Tony Blair, Alistair Campbell, Nigel Farage and Michael Portillo. 

An avid sports fan, Matt has presented a number of programmes in this field including The Sports Party for talkSPORT, interviewing sporting figures alongside celebrity fans, and in 2016 hosted weekly radio show The Warm Up with Jon Richardson on the same station.

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