The monarch spoke out as she addressed MSPs at Holyrood yesterday to mark the 20th anniversary of devolution, at a time of constitutional upheaval over Brexit and plans for a fresh referendum on Scottish independence.
As the SNP Government seeks to hold a vote on leaving the UK next year, the Queen called for the Scottish Parliament to “strengthen the bonds of partnership” at home and abroad.
The ceremony in the Scottish Parliament’s main Holyrood debating chamber was also addressed by Nicola Sturgeon, who suggested further constitutional change is on the way, while Labour’s Richard Leonard pledged to “defend devolution”.
The Queen told MSPs that Holyrood is at the “centre of public life” as a home for “passionate debate and discussion”.
She said: “It is perhaps worth reflecting that at the heart of the word ‘Parliament’ lies its original meaning – a place to talk. I have no doubt that for most of these last 20 years this striking chamber has provided exactly that, a place to talk. But of course it must also be a place to listen – a place to hear views that inevitably may differ quite considerably, one from another – and a place to honour those views.”
The Queen, accompanied by her son the Prince of Wales, who is known in Scotland as the Duke of Rothesay, said she had “watched Scotland grow and prosper” over the past two decades.
She added: “As we look to the future, it is my sincere hope that this parliament, and all those who come to serve in it, will use the power of this chamber to celebrate those invisible pillars of our communities, and follow their example by working tirelessly to improve people’s lives, and strengthen the bonds of friendship and partnership both at home and abroad.”
Almost a quarter of Scotland’s 129 MSPs stayed away from the event. The 32 absentees included Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who was on a family holiday. Tavish Scott was forced to stand in, which saw the Shetland MP instead give the traditional “leader’s address” to the Parliament. However, it was a better turnout than the tenth anniversary celebration, when 48 MSPs snubbed the event.
Sturgeon insisted the Scottish Parliament was now the “centre of our nation’s public life”.
“We have become the democratic institution that people look to reflect their priorities, their values, hopes and dreams,” she said.
“And now we look forward to a new decade in which this parliament will build new institutions and I’m sure seek further change and development.”
She added; “As we do that, in times of course when politics has been more divisive and confrontational than ever, I hope we will maintain our commitment to working together in the common good.”
The event yesterday saw musical performances from musician Phil Cunningham and singer Karen Matheson, while Scots Makar Jackie Kay recited a new poem written for the occasion entitled The Long View.
The royal party was met at Holyrood by presiding officer Ken Macintosh, with the Queen then going on to greet the First Minister and other party leaders.
Current and former MSPs were present, including ex-presiding officers George Reid and Tricia Marwick, as well as Scottish Secretary David Mundell. Some of the Scots who were born on 1 July 1999 – the day the Scottish Parliament was officially opened – also attended.
Macintosh said that over the past 20 years Holyrood had “grown into a self-confident institution”. And he noted some of the parliament’s achievements, including “the smoking ban and the minimum pricing of alcohol, free personal care and the abolition of tuition fees, the removal of Section 28 and the introduction of equal marriage”.
Macintosh added: “I am proud of that legislative record, but just as important is that the parliament itself has evolved to reflect the needs of the people we serve.”
Tory leader Ruth Davidson said Holyrood has become a fixture of Scotland’s “civic and political life”.
“This chamber has proved itself adept at both reactive legislation and with leading the national debate,” she said.
“There is consensus that, as a process, devolution has made our country stronger.”
Leonard said it was his party that delivered devolution for Scotland. And he added: “I stand proudly as the leader of the party, which in opposition defends devolution because it is an unassailable truth that each generation has to win the same battles over again.”
Mundell said: “We have made Holyrood one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.”