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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)

Meeting date: Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Portfolio Question Time, Business Motion, Decision Time, Cannabis-based Products for Medicinal Use


Contents


The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

The next item of business is a debate on motion S6M-04716, in the name of Nicola Sturgeon, on the Queen’s platinum jubilee.

Before we begin the debate, I would like to put on record the congratulations and best wishes of the Scottish Parliament to Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of her platinum jubilee. Her Majesty has served the country with dedication for over seven decades, and, as we recognised at the opening ceremony for this session, last October, Her Majesty has been no stranger to the chamber. From the reconvening of the Parliament in 1999, she has joined us to mark every session, and we are very grateful for her on-going support. It is fitting that the Parliament has this opportunity to record our respect and gratitude for a lifetime of service.

I call the First Minister to speak to and move the motion.

15:13  

The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon)

Her Majesty is the first British monarch in history to celebrate a platinum jubilee. For her, that marks 70 years of dedicated public service, which, by any measure, is an extraordinary achievement. This jubilee is therefore a hugely important personal milestone for the Queen, but it is also an occasion of historic significance. Over the next four days, it will be marked across the Commonwealth, throughout the United Kingdom and around Scotland.

I will have the privilege of attending, on behalf of the Scottish people, the special thanksgiving service in St Paul’s cathedral on Friday morning. It is, as the Presiding Officer indicated, fitting that the Parliament adds our voice to the many tributes being paid.

The Queen has been a very good friend to our Parliament for the past 23 years. The mace before us in the chamber, which was her gift to mark the Parliament’s re-establishment, in 1999, is inscribed with the words wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity. It is a treasured symbol of the values that underpin this institution and that guide those of us who are privileged to serve here.

Since 1999, Her Majesty has addressed this Parliament on several occasions, most recently last October, when she reminded us of our responsibilities, particularly in the face of the climate crisis, to help to create a better and healthier future and to make particular efforts to engage with young people as we do so.

Her regular visits to Holyrood—both to the chamber and to her residence across the road from here—reflect the fact that, as she noted when she first addressed us, Scotland occupies a special place in her affections. Her love of Balmoral is very well known, and her first-ever public engagement was at the Aberdeen sailors home in 1944. When she visited Scotland seven decades ago, following her accession to the throne, tens of thousands of people turned out to welcome her. Since then, Her Majesty has played an integral part in the story of modern Scotland.

In the past decade alone, she has helped to mark many important occasions here. She opened the Glasgow Commonwealth games in 2014. In 2015, on the very day on which she became the UK’s longest-serving monarch, she officially opened the Borders railway. In 2017, she opened the Queensferry crossing, exactly 53 years to the day after she opened the Forth road bridge. At all those events, it was very obvious just how much public affection there is for her and there was for the Duke of Edinburgh, whose loss last year will, I am sure, be keenly felt by her over the coming days.

One of the Queen’s most recent duties relating to Scotland was for the 26th United Nations climate change conference of the parties—COP26. Although she was unable to attend the summit in person, she contributed a thoughtful video message, calling on world leaders to show leadership. That evening, in Kelvingrove, I was very struck by the obvious attention and regard that her remarks commanded from all those who were present. It was a mark of how widely the Queen is respected not only across the Commonwealth, but in countries around the world. Therefore, it is not surprising that her jubilee is being celebrated so widely. Here, in Scotland, thanksgiving services are being held in many locations, including at Glasgow cathedral on Sunday. Tomorrow night, jubilee beacons will be lit across the country and, in many places, pipers will play a specially composed tune. Communities across Scotland will take part in a variety of different ways.

The Scottish Government, on behalf of the people of Scotland, will mark the occasion with the presentation of two personal gifts to Her Majesty: a bottle of limited edition Johnnie Walker whisky with a design celebrating Scotland’s plants and wildlife, and a throw that is made from the tartan that was commissioned in honour of the three bridges across the Forth.

To create a longer-term legacy, Historic Environment Scotland will plant a stand of 70 native trees in Holyrood park. The proposed jubilee wood will be located less than a kilometre from here, just across the road from St Margaret’s loch, and will be visible from the palace of Holyroodhouse. It is expected that wild flowers will be planted beneath the trees by primary and nursery children from nearby schools. The initiative will enhance a part of our capital city that the Queen knows and loves. It is also historically apt, as the Queen’s first public engagement in Scotland after acceding to the throne, 70 years ago, saw her plant a cherry tree by the entrance to Canongate kirk. That tree still stands there today.

It is hoped that the trees that are planted this year, for her platinum jubilee, will still be standing and flourishing 70 years from now and for many years after that. They will be an enduring and fitting reminder of a unique occasion in history and an expression of the regard and affection in which the Queen is held by so many across our nation.

We were reminded of Her Majesty’s sense of service very recently in the example that she set for us all during the pandemic. In her public address during the first lockdown, in April 2020, when she said that “better days” would return and that we would all “meet again”, she provided a comforting message of reassurance to an anxious and unsettled population.

Of course, none of us will ever forget the deeply moving image of the Queen at the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh, her husband of 70 years. That was, undoubtedly, an image for the ages as she demonstrated yet again her determination to lead by example.

On that day, as she has done throughout her reign, she affirmed those core values of integrity, wisdom, justice and compassion. The Queen has upheld those values for more than seven decades now. She has been a constant figure in an ever-changing world, and, over the decades, she has provided support and encouragement to many.

One of the great privileges of being First Minister, which I have in common with my predecessors and with Prime Ministers over the past 70 years, is spending time with her privately. Those conversations are, rightly, confidential, but it is fair to say that the opportunity to talk with her and benefit from her knowledge, wisdom and unique perspective on modern history has been an experience that I deeply value and will always cherish.

Of course, there are and always have been different views in our country—and, indeed, in this chamber—about the institution of monarchy. The democratic right to express those views is always to be celebrated. However, the occasion of the platinum jubilee is not just about an institution; above all, it is about the life and service of an extraordinary woman who had no more choice than any of us do about the circumstances into which she was born, but who has given a lifetime of dedicated service. We should all pay tribute to that.

Therefore, it is absolutely right that we celebrate the platinum jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Let us congratulate her warmly on a reign of unprecedented length, and let us acknowledge, with deep gratitude and respect, her dedication to duty. It is a pleasure and my privilege to move the motion in my name. [Applause.]

I move,

That the Parliament congratulates Her Majesty The Queen on the occasion of her Platinum Jubilee; expresses its gratitude for Her Majesty’s exceptional public service and dedication to duty over 70 years; affirms the deep respect that is held for Her Majesty in Scotland, and sends good wishes for her continued service.

15:22  

Douglas Ross (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

It is a great pleasure to speak for the Scottish Conservatives in recognition of the Queen’s platinum jubilee.

The Queen has been the great constant in our nation’s recent history. Fewer than one in seven Scots have lived during the reign of another British monarch. As we recognise the Queen’s 70 years of service to the British people, we reflect not just on her reign so far, but on the changes that she has seen to our country and to the role of the monarch in the United Kingdom today.

The Queen came to the throne in 1952, at the age of just 25, following the passing of her father. At that point, the UK was still recovering from the devastating impact of the second world war. Rationing was still in place; conscription continued, with British servicemen fighting in the Korean war; and the national health service was just four years old. Winston Churchill was Prime Minister during the first years of her reign, and the Queen has seen 14 incumbents hold that office.

Yet the beginning of her reign was important not just here, in the United Kingdom—it also had great significance across the globe. At the time, the UK ruled over a colonial empire, with territories on every continent. When the Queen was crowned, she was made head of state not just of the United Kingdom, but of six other countries. Today, the Queen is the monarch of 15 countries, including Canada, Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Jamaica.

She also succeeded her father as head of the Commonwealth. When we reflect on the Queen’s reign to date, we must celebrate her role as leader of the Commonwealth and her influence in shaping the destiny of that organisation. She presided over the transition of the British empire into the Commonwealth of nations and continued the work that was done by her father to develop the Commonwealth from an informal association of former colonies, which shared a monarchy, to an international organisation of 54 countries, many of which are republics. That organisation has promoted democracy, human rights and the rule of law, including the challenging of apartheid in South Africa and of Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

The Queen’s reign is significant not just for the Commonwealth, but for many other countries. The Queen is an international stateswoman and the most travelled head of state in history. She has visited the United States several times to reaffirm our special relationship and has addressed the United Nations twice. Many of the Queen’s state visits have marked important moments in history. In 1980, she became the first British monarch to undertake a state visit to the Vatican, which was followed up by subsequent visits in 2000 and 2014. In 1994, she visited Russia in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

One visit that stands out in a long list of landmark occasions is her state visit to Ireland in 2011. That act, which would have been unthinkable at many points in her reign, was symbolic of the healing of old wounds both in Ireland and between our two countries.

However, the Queen has marked significant change not just abroad, but at home, in the UK, and she has had a huge influence on our national life. Her great achievements include her silver, gold, diamond and now platinum jubilee celebrations, marking her as the longest-serving British monarch; her starring role with James Bond in the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic games; and her role in modernising the monarchy so that it reflects the United Kingdom today.

Her personal tragedies include her uncle Lord Mountbatten being assassinated during the troubles; the death of Princess Diana; and, of course, as the First Minister has referenced, the death of her husband, Prince Philip, last year after a long and loving marriage.

Those are all moments not just of royal history, but of British national history. The Queen has been a constant presence during those times of adversity and triumph, reflecting the mood of our country, from celebration and worship during her annual Christmas address to stoicism and resolve in the face of crisis—most recently, as the First Minister said, in her televised appearance during the Covid pandemic. There is also, of course, the remembrance of our nation’s sacrifices in conflict, which is an act that Her Majesty gives very special significance to, having lived through the second world war.

As we celebrate the Queen’s reign to date, we must also reflect on her role in our country today. She remains the most recognisable and persuasive advocate for the United Kingdom abroad and a symbol of our enduring ties to so many countries around the globe. She continues to dedicate her life to duty to our country. Our country—Scotland and the whole United Kingdom—is richer because of her dedication, her passion and her commitment to the people she has served and continues to serve.

It is my pleasure, on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives, to thank Her Majesty for her service to Scotland, the whole United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. Long may she reign over us. [Applause.]

15:27  

Anas Sarwar (Glasgow) (Lab)

On behalf of the Scottish Labour Party, I extend my congratulations to Her Majesty the Queen as she celebrates her platinum jubilee and pay tribute to her remarkable public service for more than 70 years. I join others in sending my very best wishes to Her Majesty at this special time for her and her family.

This weekend is an opportunity to reflect on the Queen’s extraordinary dedication to our country and its people. Her commitment has earned her respect and the love of people in Scotland, the UK and across the world.

Our country—our world—has changed beyond recognition since the 1950s, but one thing has remained constant during those turbulent times of change: Her Majesty’s dedication to duty, her integrity, her warmth and her selfless service to others. Those are the values that she lived by when ascending to the throne, and those are the values by which she lives today, despite the many changes and challenges that she and our country have faced.

Those values are as relevant today as they have always been. In these times, when we face division, cynicism and a worrying loss of trust in public institutions, perhaps they are more relevant than ever.

The importance of recognising public services and public service unites us all in the chamber. Many of us had the honour of hearing the Queen address this very chamber. Some were even at the other end of the Royal Mile in 1999 when she opened the Scottish Parliament with the words:

“It’s 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.”

That was an important reminder then, as it is today, that, despite our political disagreements and arguments, all of us here are in the service of the Scottish people.

This coming weekend, the shows on our televisions will look back at the Queen’s remarkable reign, but this jubilee is about much more than looking back at history; it is also an opportunity to look at our country today. Although many people will be working hard this weekend, particularly our front-line workers, I hope that everyone has an opportunity to enjoy the celebrations and spend some cherished time with their loved ones—cherished time that many of us did not get during the past couple of difficult years.

This weekend also marks national thank you day, when we can say thank you not only to the Queen for her service but to everyone who has helped us through the difficult times that we have faced in the past few years—from nurses and doctors, scientists and teachers, to our neighbours, families and friends. I also know that many will take a moment to remember those who they lost during the pandemic.

As has been referenced already, at perhaps one of the darkest times in our United Kingdom’s modern history, Her Majesty found the words to pull together a nation and remind us that we would meet our loved ones again. The Queen herself is no stranger to the grief that is felt by millions, so encapsulated in that striking photo of her sitting alone at her beloved husband’s funeral.

There are some who say that Scotland’s and the United Kingdom’s best days are behind us. I believe that they are wrong. Our best days are ahead of us. Together, as we celebrate, we can build the social bond of a better union, which celebrates the values of Her Majesty and these islands: duty, integrity, warmth and selfless service to others.

On behalf of the Scottish Labour Party, I wish Her Majesty a wonderful platinum jubilee, and I wish her the best of health, happiness and strength in the years to come. [Applause.]

15:31  

Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

It is a singular honour to rise on behalf of the Scottish Liberal Democrats to offer our congratulations to Her Majesty on the occasion of her platinum jubilee. This is a very special time: none of us shall ever see another platinum jubilee. It is absolutely fitting that we mark it in this way.

If I may, I will begin with a quote:

“I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so many of you are pledged to mine. Throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust.”

Those were the words of Her Majesty the Queen, spoken on the occasion of her coronation day in 1953. It is self-evident how hard she has strived and, even among the most ardent republican hearts in this chamber, she has been found worthy of our trust. We thank her for fulfilling the promise of those words.

We live in a world and we work in a parliamentary chamber that are filled often with hyperbole. Actions and events are often spoken of in terms that overstate their importance and their significance. However, today it is fitting that we reach for loftier language to sum up what has been 70 years of remarkable service from a genuinely unique and historic figure. It is right that we mark her long service, both in the chamber today and with the festivities that are planned across the country over the coming days.

During the Queen’s reign, as we have heard, she has seen 14 Prime Ministers come and go. She has met 13 of the last 14 US presidents. She has represented this country and the Commonwealth around the world with unfaltering poise and with distinction. Indeed, in a world that can sometimes seem sadly and increasingly defined by shallow self-interest, Her Majesty has long served as an exquisite example of the best of Britishness—of humility, service, dedication to duty, dignity and forbearance.

Her Majesty has been a pillar of comfort and reassurance during times of uncertainty and of emergency, whether as a young princess broadcasting to the world during world war two; when she ascended to the throne of post-war Britain at the age of just 27; or, as we have heard already, with her recent intervention in the early days of the pandemic. Her broadcast then, normally reserved for Christmas, provided a desperately needed sense of hope and perspective amid the darkest of days. To quote from her words that day:

“Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it. ... we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”

The Queen has always held Scotland close to her heart. In the chamber last year, she spoke of her “deep and abiding affection” for our country. Over the next few days, Scotland will give its own tribute to the Queen, in events that are planned in our many towns and cities and villages. There are those who have argued that the money that was spent on celebrating the jubilee is unjustified, especially amid the cost of living crisis. I have some sympathy for that perspective, but we must remember that the festivities also mark and commemorate a chapter in our nation’s story. Who we have been and what we have stood for in these past 70 years will be acknowledged and celebrated this weekend. That is invaluable, and I hope that it serves to unite us, after two years of isolation and at a time when we face more uncertainty and challenge.

On behalf of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, I thank Her Majesty for her incredible long years of service and wish her the very happiest platinum jubilee. [Applause.]