Speeches delivered by the Presiding Officer, Her Majesty The Queen and the First Minister on 1 July to mark the start of the Fourth Session of the Scottish Parliament:
The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): Your Majesty, I am delighted to welcome you and the Duke of Edinburgh to the Scottish Parliament today, as you join us to officially open our fourth session of Parliament.
Your Majesty, you return today to a chamber that is very familiar to you. You first joined us here in 2004 for the opening of this magnificent building, and you returned in 2007 to mark the opening of our third session. More recently, you joined us just two years ago, when we marked the Parliament’s 10th anniversary. Your continued support of the Scottish Parliament and its members is greatly appreciated, and this chamber is a place in which you will be always assured of a very warm welcome.
In each of our sessions to date, the voters of Scotland have presented this Parliament with fresh challenges. In this session, we have another first: the first single party majority Government. It will put our procedures to the test, but I know that, as before, this Parliament will rise to that challenge. Our track record is one of evolution and innovation, and I assure you, Your Majesty, that as Presiding Officer I will do all that I can to ensure that this Parliament lives up to the aspirations and expectations of the people of Scotland.
No member of the Scottish Parliament should be under any illusion that the next five years will be easy or straightforward. The people of Scotland are experiencing a time when their incomes and lifestyles have felt the full effects of the difficult economic period through which we have all been living, and during the times ahead people will quite rightly look to this Parliament for leadership.
In this session, members will be asked to make some difficult decisions, but the words of our previous and now sadly departed Scots makar, Edwin Morgan, should provide us with some guidance. When this building opened for business in 2004, he reminded us of the hopes and aspirations of the Scottish people for their Parliament and he warned us:
“A nest of fearties is what they do not want.
A symposium of procrastinators is what they do not want.
A phalanx of forelock-tuggers is what they do not want.
And perhaps above all the droopy mantra of ‘it wizny me’ is what they do not want.”
They were strong words, but they are as relevant today as when they were penned.
The Scottish Parliament, now 12 years old, is an institution of growing maturity. Our greatest challenge over this extended five-year session is to continue to drive this Parliament forward. We have to challenge ourselves as elected members to be ambitious, to be bold and to demonstrate the spirit of innovation for which Scots are renowned, and which will allow us to achieve more with fewer resources, just as households, businesses and families across Scotland are doing.
We have the knowledge and we have the experience, and now we have an opportunity to reflect as a mature Parliament on how we can find new ways of working in this chamber, in our committees and in all of our other activities—doing more with less but still upholding our prime responsibilities as a Parliament to legislate, to scrutinise and hold to account the Government of the day, and to represent the will of the people.
Your Majesty, when you joined us in 2004 to mark the opening of this unique building, you said that we must ensure that Holyrood came to be seen as a landmark of 21st century democracy. Like my predecessors, I will champion democracy in this fourth session of Parliament to ensure that our Parliament is open in all that it does, represents the voices of our citizens, and is responsive and mature in its consideration of the issues that face us as a country. I am but one of 129 MSPs—the onus is on each and every one of us to make sure that this Parliament works to meet the aspirations of the people of Scotland. We have five years to make it happen, and we owe it to the people of our great nation to do so.
Your Majesty, it is a great privilege to invite you to address the Scottish Parliament. [Applause.]
Her Majesty the Queen: Presiding Officer, First Minister, members of the Scottish Parliament, I am pleased to be with you once again on the occasion of the opening of the Scottish Parliament in its fourth session since the Scotland Act 1998.
Presiding Officer, your appointment has been held by three distinguished predecessors, each of whom I am very glad to see here today. They, as much as any others, have been responsible for the high reputation and good conduct of this Parliament. No one would ever argue that Scottish politics is the business of the meek, the passive or the faint-hearted. Accordingly, as the keeper and defender of the good name of this Parliament, the Presiding Officer requires not only an acute sense of fairness and impartiality, but the capacity and inclination to exercise careful judgment. Presiding Officer, as you embark upon this important task, I hope that you will draw inspiration from the example of those who came before you and from the support of all those in Scotland and beyond who wish this institution well.
In earlier addresses to the Scottish Parliament, I have pointed to the particular difficulties which confront a new and developing legislature. Now in its second decade, the Scottish Parliament is firmly established as an integral part of Scottish public life. The maturity of the legislation passed in this chamber and the well-tested processes giving rise to it are evidence of the Scottish Parliament having truly come of age. This is an achievement of which all members—past and present—should be proud.
To the new and returning members of the Scottish Parliament, I offer the observation that, in return for the authority placed upon you, a very great deal is asked of Scotland’s elected politicians—perhaps as much now as ever before. Among the Scottish people, the roles and responsibilities of this Parliament and all its members are probably better known and understood than at any stage in the past 12 years. As this consciousness of your work has grown, so, inevitably, have expectations.
This, of course, is a ceremonial and celebratory occasion—an opportunity to reaffirm the importance that we attach to the values and freedoms that underwrite and protect our democracy. Your work here is carried out in the presence of the mace, which was presented to this Parliament at its official opening on this day in 1999. As well as serving as the symbol of your authority to govern, the mace, with just a few words engraved upon it, is a reminder of your responsibilities to the people of Scotland to govern with wisdom and compassion, to make fair and just laws and to show integrity in all that you do. You are charged with giving those words meaning in the face of the constant and competing demands that will be placed upon you. As a close observer of every stage of this Parliament’s life, I remain confident that you will manage to discharge your duty diligently and competently, and to serve the interests of the people of Scotland to the best of your ability.
Presiding Officer, First Minister, members of the Scottish Parliament—the Duke of Edinburgh joins me in extending my very best wishes to you for this fourth session of Parliament. [Applause.]
The First Minister (Alex Salmond): Your Majesty, on behalf of the people of Scotland, can I thank you for declaring this fourth session of the reconvened Scottish Parliament open—although, as some of our friends in the press will surely point out, we will then immediately move into recess.
Your Majesty has been the firmest of friends of this Parliament, particularly in some of our early and difficult years, and you now return to demonstrate that confidence as we move into a different age. Scotland and Parliament have changed since you first came to congratulate our newly democratised nation in 1999. We have grown in esteem and ambition—and we wish to grow more.
Since May, a clamour of voices have been scrambled to debate the road ahead. Some urge us to ignore Edwin Morgan’s call—repeated by our new makar—to be “bold”, but the “nest of fearties” approach is for another time and place. This is a country that is increasingly comfortable in its own skin. We aspire to be more successful, more dynamic, fairer and greener. We want to uphold the values of the common weal, to protect the vulnerable and to nurture the young, and we want to emerge from current economic difficulties into better times.
Your Majesty, can I quote from a recent speech that you made to another nation of these islands—one which was received with great praise and warmth? At a banquet in Dublin castle, after an impressive opening in the Irish language, which I will not attempt to emulate, you said:
“Together we have much to celebrate: the ties between our people, the shared values, and the economic, business and cultural links that make us so much more than neighbours, that make us firm friends and equal partners.”
Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales: together we do have much to celebrate, including the English language of Shakespeare, James Joyce, Dylan Thomas and Edwin Morgan himself. One of the greatest works in that language, of course, is the King James Bible, which is 400 years old this very year. The translation was first suggested not at Hampton Court, as is often claimed, but at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland at Burntisland in Fife in 1601. It was driven by Scottish egalitarianism, a commitment to education and the desire that everyone should be able to read and understand scripture. The idea travelled south with King James VI of Scots, when he accepted the English crown two years later. It was brought then to life by scholars in Cambridge, Oxford and Westminster. It has given us some of the most common phrases in the language that we share, for example, “thorn in the flesh” from Corinthians 12:7; “fly in the ointment” from Ecclesiastes 10:1; “turning the world upside-down” from Acts 17:6; and “a law unto themselves” from Romans 2:14. Those phrases occasionally resound around this chamber and are not always deployed in the interests of the Government.
So, there is much that we share. This much, we know. But the nations of these islands are also distinct, with our own unique histories and cultures, our own economic challenges and our own opportunities. Some of us believe that the best way to articulate that uniqueness and to tackle these challenges lies within ourselves and should be fully expressed within the work of this Parliament. Whatever constitutional path the people of Scotland choose—and it is their choice to make—we will aspire to be, in your words,
“firm friends and equal partners”.
It gave me great pleasure recently to represent Scotland at the wedding of your grandson in Westminster Abbey, and we look forward, as you do, to another wedding—that of your granddaughter Zara in the Canongate Kirk, a holy place that you first visited on the first day of your first visit to Scotland as our Queen. It is worth remembering that the Canongate Kirk itself was commissioned in 1688 by King James VII, King of both Scotland and England, when the two countries had their own Parliaments in Edinburgh and London. From 1603 until this Parliament entered a rather long adjournment in 1707, your predecessors reigned over two sovereign nations—and there was nothing particularly unusual in that arrangement. Today, your Majesty, you come here as Queen of Scots, but also as head of state of 16 different realms and leader of a Commonwealth comprising 54 nations. It is a role which you have always taken seriously and discharged flawlessly.
I look forward to welcoming you to the Commonwealth games, which take place in Glasgow in three years’ time. In your last Christmas address, you mentioned the Delhi games and observed that the smallest nations get the largest cheers. The city of Glasgow, therefore, can guarantee a deafening welcome in 2014 when Scotland will compete in the games as the host nation.
We are a proud people, keen to contribute to the global common weal and to that marvellous egalitarian principle which inspires the modern Commonwealth. Or, as the King James Bible would have it:
“To every thing there is a season, and a time”.
For Scotland and for this Parliament, this can be a good season and a good time. [Applause.]