The sun came out for the visit of Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Rothesay to Holyrood this morning to attend the ceremony to celebrate twenty years of the parliament.
Her Majesty and His Grace made the short journey by car from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to the parliament building where they were first greeted by the Rt Hon Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh, Frank Ross, before Presiding Officer Ken Mackintosh took over to accompany Her Majesty along with the two deputy Presiding Officers, Christine Grahame and Linda Fabiani.
The royal party was accompanied by members of the Royal Company of Archers who have a ceremonial role to guard Her Majesty in Scotland.
The ceremony included young people who were born on 1st July – the day the parliament reconvened – in 1999. Much was made of the 20 year-olds who were from all over Scotland in the same way as they were included in the 10th birthday celebrations.
A significant part of the performance was a wonderful poem by the Scots Makar, Jackie Kay who read her first commission, THE LONG VIEW, for the Parliament in English, with some parts spoken in Gaelic by Lewis McCaskill and some performed in British Sign Language by Moira Anne McAuslan with beautiful singing by Suzanne Bonnar and a BSL translation by Amy Cheskin. It was a fabulous use of the chamber where the cantilevered ceiling means there are no upright supports or columns to obscure anyone’s line of sight.
The performers were placed around the chamber rather than in a group, meaning that everyone had a chance to feel near and a part of it.
All of the political leaders spoke after Her Majesty had conveyed her good wishes to the parliament and mentioned her fondness for Scotland.
Her Majesty had presented the Mace to the parliament in 1999 when the first First Minister Donald Dewar was so pleased to deliver the devolved parliament. The Mace is an integral part of the symbolism of power in Holyrood and was referred to in several of the speeches made.
It was designed and crafted by Michael Lloyd. It is made from silver and of gold panned from Scottish rivers.
The inlaid gold band symbolises the relationship between the Parliament, its people and the land.
Engraved on the head of the mace are the words ‘Wisdom, Justice, Compassion and Integrity’ – a reference to the ideals that the people of Scotland aspire to for their Members of Parliament.
The most understated performance perhaps was by Phil Cunningham who played the tin whistle during the performance of Farewell to Govan which he composed. It was arranged and conducted by John Logan, Head of Brass and performed by Braw Brass with Phil Cunningham, Artistic Director of Traditional Music and Jenn Butterworth, Lecturer in Practical Studies The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Karen Matheson of Capercaillie sang Ae Fond Kiss accompanied by her husband Donald Shaw on the piano and the Harvey String Quartet.
In what appeared to be an almost unscripted moment (it wasn’t on the official programme!) while piper Stuart McMillan MSP played the Royal party out of the chamber with A Man’s a Man for a’ That, the person who had sung it at the opening 20 years ago, folk singer Sheena Wellington, got a mike and sang it once more!
After the ceremony the doors of Holyrood were opened for an afternoon of fun for members of the public while Her Majesty the Queen slipped back to the Palace across the road.