Nation marks the birthday of a sovereign who has enjoyed a close relationship with us for 90 years
When we think of the Queen’s relationship with Scotland, familiar images of holidays at Balmoral Castle or garden parties at Holyroodhouse spring to mind.
But the Queen, who celebrated her 90th birthday last week, has visited many parts of the nation far removed from palaces and rugged Aberdeenshire countryside. During her 64-year reign she has undertaken a wide variety of public engagements, including opening a swimming pool in Camelon, switching on an oil terminal in Shetland and even taking tea in Castlemilk.
In 1999, she visited the home of Susan McCarron in the Craigdale housing estate in Glasgow. It was unlikely stop on a royal tour, but one chosen to reflect a “more intimate meet-the-people style of visit”, according to courtiers.
It was something of a radical departure from the stiffly formal royal engagements of old.
McCarron’s house was chosen as it had been adapted by the local housing association to meet her special needs.
Having looked out her best table cloth and china for the occasion, she told reporters at the time: “It went well. I wasn’t nervous at all.
“She was asking about the house and how long I had lived here, where I lived before. I found her very easy to talk to.”
The Queen’s trip to Castlemilk took place just one week after another historic royal engagement north of the Border.
On 1 July, she officially opened the first Scottish Parliament to meet for nearly 300 years.
Addressing newly elected MSPs at the legislature’s temporary home in Edinburgh’s Assembly Hall, she said: “It is our solemn duty in this chamber with the eyes of the country upon us to mark the point when this new parliament assumes its full powers in the service of the Scottish people.
“It is a moment rare in the life of any nation when we step across the threshold of a new constitutional age.
“Over the centuries the British have sought to acknowledge and promote that pragmatic balance between continuity and change as we have forged new political structures to respond more effectively to democratic aspirations.
“This new parliament and the symbolism of this opening ceremony are rightly anchored in the history of Scotland.”
The Queen’s speech ushered in a new era of devolution in Scottish politics that would have seemed almost unthinkable when she ascended to the throne in 1952.
The last years of her father George VI’s reign had seen growing support for some form of home rule in Scotland, but it was quickly forgotten in an era of post-war austerity and industry nationalisation.
There was a huge display of public support for the Queen when she made an official visit to Edinburgh in June 1953, weeks after her coronation at Westminster Abbey.
Thousands of people thronged the centre of the capital to greet her and Prince Philip when they arrived at Princes Street station in the West End.
A week-long visit to Edinburgh in June quickly became an established part of the royal diary.
The annual garden party at the Palace of Holyroodhouse became one of the sought-after invites in the country.
Today, the event is more about recognising the hard work and dedication of public servants and charity volunteers from across Scotland.
While appropriate dress is still required, and etiquette strictly followed, the modern garden party reflects the Queen’s more personable approach to meeting the public – a winning strategy that ensures her own popularity remains as high as ever.