The Scottish Parliament's 10th anniversary activities were marked today with an address by Her Majesty The Queen and a special party for more than 140 ten-year-old children from across Scotland.
Exactly 10 years on from 1 July 1999, Her Majesty entered the Debating Chamber to address MSPs to the sound of a 10th anniversary fanfare, specially commissioned by the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
Welcoming Her Majesty, Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson MSP acknowledged this was the sixth occasion she had addressed Parliament and it was ‘entirely fitting’ that she was present to mark this milestone in Holyrood’s history.
He outlined how each of the Scottish Parliament’s three sessions had created very different Chambers – a coalition government, a ‘rainbow’ Parliament and now a minority government.
He said: “In each case, Parliament’s ability to cope has been thoroughly tested and each time that challenge has been met. The Parliament has continued to make new laws and to hold the Government to account on behalf of the people of Scotland.”
He added: “And so in this 10th anniversary year, we find ourselves in a Parliament that has established itself as one of the most open and innovative in Europe: but we must never rest on our laurels and that is why we are using our 10th anniversary as a platform to further strengthen our public-engagement work.”
He went on to say that he and all the children were delighted that Her Majesty had made time to ‘drop in’ on today’s birthday party.
He concluded: “These children have, quite literally, grown up with the Scottish Parliament and we are absolutely thrilled that so many of them and their parents have accepted our invitation to join us today.
"I very much hope that they will retain a strong link with the Parliament because, through their lives, is told the unfolding story of Scotland. Their success and wellbeing represents the future we Parliamentarians – of whatever political persuasion – aspire to for all the people of this country.”
'Issues of real importance'
In response, Her Majesty spoke of the spirit of ‘engagement and innovation’ amongst MSPs as they sought to fulfil their commitment to serve the people of Scotland .
She said: “Over this last decade, Members of the Scottish Parliament – past and present – have worked hard to address the issues of real importance to the Scottish people and have firmly embedded this Parliament as an institution at the heart of Scottish life and culture.
"Your challenge over the coming years is to take the Scottish Parliament forward on the next stage of its journey, to build upon these strong foundations, to ensure that it continues to reflect the priorities and aspirations of all of Scotland’s people, and to retain the public’s confidence and trust.”
The ceremony was attended by former Scottish Parliament presiding officers Sir David Steel and George Reid as well as Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, and Speaker of the National Assembly of Quebec, Yvon Vallières.
Before the ceremony Her Majesty was presented to First Minister Alex Salmond and Labour leader Iain Gray, Conservative leader Annabel Goldie and Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott.
Speaking in the Chamber Mr Salmond MSP said: “We have certainly broken the mould, learning how to build a system of governance that reflects and responds to the values of our people. Some said it could not be done – that the Parliament was bound to fail, born to fail. But we have – as a Parliament and a people – proven them to be wrong.”
Contemporary Scottish musician Roddy Hart provided the music during the ceremony, singing a specially arranged version of Robert Burns' poem Nature’s Law.
At the same time, the 143 ten-year-olds who share the same birthdate as Holyrood assembled in the Scottish Parliament’s main hall as they waited to be introduced to The Queen.
A number of the youngsters had travelled from places outwith Scotland especially for their special birthday celebration – from as far afield as the USA, Canada, Germany and the Faroe Islands.
After meeting Her Majesty they were whisked off to their own special birthday party lunch before heading around Holyrood to take part in a range of birthday treats including making their own cupcakes, inventing a new computer game and designing their own tartan ceramic tile.
Craig Buchanan, who was born in Glasgow but now lives in New Jersey, USA, said he was the envy of all his friends because he had been invited to such a special 10th birthday party.
He said: “They all asked me to get the Queen’s autograph and I had planned to, but when I saw her in the flesh I was too shy. I said ‘hi’ though and she said ‘hello’ back, which is pretty cool.
"It was awesome getting to come over for this, although I have lived in America for years I still think of myself as Scottish and am always getting my friends to eat shortbread.”
And Michael Malcolm, who lives in Fallingbostel, Germany, said: “It has been brilliant coming over here, I feel so, so special. I was worried I wouldn’t as there are so many other people celebrating their birthday – but this is amazing. I will never forget it.”
Bringing a touch of colour to the party was Kai Bateman – who dyed her hair pink especially for her meeting with the Queen.
Kai, of Dundee, said: “I wanted to do something fun so decided to go pink to match my dress. All my pals are so jealous of me coming to the Parliament and doing loads of fun stuff and seeing the Queen.”
Morgan McGrory, of Glenrothes, said he was most excited about the size of the cake. He also told how he decided to wear a kilt for the first time and how his parents used the same tartan they wore on their wedding.
He said: “That cake is just massive, it is like a mini football pitch. And all the stuff we have done here, like art and computers and stuff, it is just fab. It really is the party of a lifetime.”
And the Presiding Officer, who joined the children at their party and joined in with some of their activities, said that he was delighted the youngsters had such a special day.
He said: “You can tell by the looks on their faces that these youngsters are having great fun – and that’s what this is all about, them joining the Parliament in celebrating all our tenth birthdays.”
Deputy Presiding Officer Trish Godman MSP said: “These children have learned about the Parliament and are thoroughly enjoying their time here and it is wonderful to see them all having such fun.”
Deputy Presiding Officer Alasdair Morgan MSP said: “It has been a brilliant day. Having all these youngsters from across Scotland participating in an activity like this is a great way for them to engage with their Parliament.”
As she left Holyrood, Her Majesty’s route was lined by children from the Royal Mile Primary School, Edinburgh and was presented with a bouquet of flowers made from Harris Tweed by pupil Trisha Muco.
The Scottish Parliament is marking its 10th anniversary through a programme of exciting events and groundbreaking initiatives that focus on public engagement. More information on all of the 10th anniversary activities can be found on our 10 Years of Devolution page.