Members of Parliament and honoured guests, it is my solemn duty – and my honour - to move this motion of condolence on the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
For people across our country, this is a time of profound sorrow.
While the nation’s grief is for our Queen, the Royal Family’s is for their beloved mother, grandmother, and great grandmother.
Today, on behalf of the Parliament and people of Scotland, I offer my heartfelt condolences to Your Majesties; and to the Duke of Rothesay, The Princess Royal, The Earls of Inverness and Forfar and to all members of Her Majesty’s wider family.
When Queen Victoria died in 1901, Arthur Balfour led tributes then in the House of Commons.
He commented that the grief of the country was in part because they were marking the end of an epoch “the beginning of which stretches beyond the memory...of any individual whom I am now addressing.”
Those words are just as true for us today.
Most of us do not remember life without The Queen.
When, as Princess Elizabeth, She gave a radio broadcast from South Africa on her 21st birthday, She was addressing an empire that still included India.
When She became Monarch, Winston Churchill was Prime Minister.
In an ever changing and often turbulent world, Her Majesty has been our constant.
She has been the anchor of our nation.
Our personal recollections are often intertwined with memories of Her reign.
I was 9 when I first saw The Queen.
She visited Irvine, my home town, in July 1979 to open the Magnum Leisure Centre.
I was one of hundreds lining the streets with my mum. By luck, we ended up close to Her car as it passed by.
9 year old me was absolutely convinced I’d caught Her eye.
That 9 year old girl could not have imagined, 35 years later, being in the front passenger seat of another car, this time with the Queen at the wheel, driving through the Balmoral Estate.
In recent days, other leaders have shared stories from Balmoral – of BBQs cooked by Prince Philip as The Queen laid the table.
These are memories I treasure too.
Special times in what was clearly their ‘happy place’.
I did, however, experience one rather tense moment at Balmoral.
My husband and I were with The Queen before dinner when the drawing room light started to flicker.
To my great alarm – he was, after all, in the presence of Her Majesty - my husband suddenly leapt up and darted across the room.
Peter had spotted the cause of the flickering light.
One of the Queen’s young Corgis, a beautiful pup called Sandy, was eating through a lamp switch.
Thankfully, tragedy was averted and Sandy emerged unscathed – though not before a stern ticking off from his Mistress.
Just like my predecessors as First Ministers and Prime Ministers, I deeply valued the time I spent alone with the Queen.
Her words of wisdom, counsel - and humour - will stay in my heart for the rest of my life.
However, the memory I cherish most is not from Balmoral, or from audiences at Holyrood.
It is from 2015 when The Queen opened the Borders Railway. I spent the journey from Edinburgh to Tweedbank with just Her and Prince Philip, enjoying their recollections of times spent in Scotland.
That would have been special on any day.
That it was also the day The Queen became our longest reigning Monarch – allowing me to observe closely how quietly reflective She was about that historic milestone - made it much more so.
It was one of the great privileges of my life.
What was obvious then – and on every occasion She graced us with her presence – was The Queen’s genuine love of Scotland.
Indeed, Her first official visit was here in Scotland, when She opened the Aberdeen sailors’ home in October 1944.
In the decades since, The Queen has been intrinsic to the story of modern Scotland.
From the opening of the Forties oil pipeline, to the Forth Bridge and later the Queensferry Crossing, the Borders Railway, and the hosting of three Commonwealth Games, She was present at so many of our iconic moments.
She was also a true and steadfast friend of this Parliament.
On the day we reconvened in 1999, She allowed the title ‘Queen Elizabeth, Queen of Scots’ to be used.
She also presented us with our treasured mace. Its words – wisdom, justice, compassion, integrity – describe values personified by The Queen throughout her entire life.
Even as Her health declined, Her Majesty inspired us with an unfaltering dedication to public service.
In His address on Friday, The King recalled his mother’s words on her 21st birthday.
“My whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service”.
For 75 years, Queen Elizabeth more than fulfilled that vow.
She performed her duties with dedication, wisdom and a profound sense of service.
She set an exceptional example to all of us.
Our nation is in mourning today for a Queen whose loss we have not yet begun to come to terms with.
We are honoured by the presence today of His Majesty, King Charles III, and The Queen Consort.
Your Majesty, we stand ready to support You, as You continue Your own life of service - and as You build on the extraordinary legacy of Your beloved mother, our Queen.
Queen Elizabeth, Queen of Scots.
We are grateful for Her life.
May She now rest in peace.
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