Vikings, Unicorns and an open, inclusive Parliament to be proud of

Scotland’s Parliament is just 17 years old, but compared to its centuries old neighbour, it’s really been the grown-up this week. Four of its parties have really got to grips with strategic thinking, looking for ideas to help us through the current mire in which we find ourselves, a mire not of our making.

Today we had our equivalent of the State Opening of Parliament. It only happens once every five years and I was lucky enough to have a ticket. It\s very different from the Westminster event with all its pomp and tradition. True enough, there was a little bit of pomp, with the Queen’s Archers and bearers of such wonderful heraldic titles as “Unicorn Pursuivant.” However, this is very much an event for the people, filled with music, poetry and performance.

We were seated in the Gallery by 10am, an hour before the festivities were due to begin. We originally had fantastic front row seats, but were moved on because they were apparently reserved for the media. The National Youth Choir of Scotland sang songs including the Skye Boat Song, which has a special meaning for Lib Dems, and Burns’ Ae Fond Kiss.

At about 10:50, the state trumpeters who play the fanfare appeared near us. Screens showed the party leaders lined up outside, waiting for the Queen to arrive. We were slightly apprehensive about whether Willie would behave as he has form round royalty. Our fears were heightened when he bounded into the Chamber grinning and was the last to sit down and be quiet. We found out later that Prince Philip had complemented him on his buttonhole. The Duke wasn’t to know that five years ago, Willie hadn’t realised he had to have a buttonhole. His blushes were spared by Annabel Goldie, the then Tory leader, picking him a flower from one of Holyrood’s courtyard gardens.

There were three set piece speeches. The first was from the new Presiding Officer, Ken Macintosh who reminded MSPs that it was up to them to provide an optimistic, hopeful future for young people regardless of the challenges we face. He also talked about the need to conduct our debate with respect – passion, yes, but denigrating others, no. He talked of the need to work across party boundaries.

The Queen’s wise words were mainly to do with keeping a calm head and thinking things through:

Retaining the ability to stay calm and collected can at times be hard.

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 can enable deeper consideration of how challenges and opportunities can be best addressed.

A theme that kept cropping up during the speeches and performances was that of inclusiveness. Nicola Sturgeon talked about who diversity is our strength:

Whether we have lived here for generations or are new Scots, from Europe, India, Pakistan, Africa and countries across the globe we are all of this and more. We are so much stronger for the diversity that shapes us.

We are one Scotland and we are simply home to all of those who have chosen to live here, that is who and what we are.”

I don’t think there is a single word of Nicola’s speech I disagreed with.

Makar Jackie Kay performed her poem Threshold which was full of references to asylum seekers and refugees.

There were several references to the Orlando homophobic murders and to the fact that the Pride flag was being flown outside, for Orlando ostensibly but also to mark Edinburgh Pride which followed the event. It shows just how far we’ve come in the last 50 years. It never used to be possible to even mention LGBT issues in any company let alone in front of royalty, but that, thankfully, has changed.

When the Holyrood building was opened in 2004, poet Edwin Morgan wrote “Open the doors.”Today it was performed by several members of the Scottish Youth Theatre.

I really felt that my Parliament spoke for me.

My highlight of the ceremony was Midge Ure singing A Man’s a Man for a’ that. Enjoy:

Afterwards, there was a Riding, or parade, where 2500 people representing various voluntary organisations processed down the Royal Mile. The groups ranged from Shetland Vikings to suffragists to girl guides. The party leaders also came down to talk to the crowds.

It all felt very warm and welcoming, especially when the building threw open its doors to the public and held a series of events and amusements inside all afternoon.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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One Comment

  • Barry Snelson 3rd Jul '16 - 6:54pm

    Hello Caron,
    This cheered me up mightily in a period of real gloom and despair.
    So many thanks for a brief ray of optimism even though it was short lived.

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