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The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee debate: First Minister's statement - 1 June 2022

Statement by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon opening the debate, The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, in the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, on Wednesday 1 June 2022.

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Presiding Officer

I am very pleased indeed to move this motion in my name.

Her Majesty is of course 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.

It will be marked, over the next four days, across the Commonwealth, throughout the UK, 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.

And it is, as you have just indicated Presiding Officer, fitting that this Parliament, today, 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 here in the chamber – which of course was her gift to mark the Parliament’s re-establishment in 1999 – is inscribed with the words ‘integrity, justice, wisdom, compassion’.

It is a treasured symbol of the values that underpin this institution, and which guide those of us privileged to serve here.

Since 1999, Her Majesty has addressed this chamber on several occasions.

Most recently, last October, she reminded us of our responsibilities – particularly in the face of the climate crisis – “to help create a better, healthier future”, and to make particular efforts to engage with young people, as we do so.

Her regular visits to Holyrood, both to this chamber and of course to her residence across the road from here, reflect the fact – as indeed she noted when she first addressed us – that Scotland occupies “a special place” in her affections.

Her love of Balmoral is very well known. Her first ever public engagement was at 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 mark many important occasions here.

She opened the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

In 2015, on the very day 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 had opened the Forth Road Bridge.

At all of those events, it was very obvious just how much public affection there is for her and also was for The Duke of Edinburgh – whose loss last year will I am sure be very keenly felt by her over the coming days.

One of The Queen’s most recent duties relating to Scotland was for COP 26.

While she was unable to attend the summit in person, she contributed a thoughtful video message, calling on world leaders to show leadership.

I was very struck that evening in Kelvingrove by the obvious attention and regard that her remarks commanded from all those present. It was a mark of how widely The Queen is respected – not just across the Commonwealth, but in countries right around the world.

It is not surprising, therefore, 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 made from the tartan commissioned in honour of the three bridges across the Forth.

And 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.

This initiative will enhance a part of our capital city that The Queen knows and loves.

It is also, Presiding Officer, historically apt. 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 planted this year, for her Platinum Jubilee, will still be standing and flourishing 70 years from now, and indeed 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.

Presiding Officer,

We were reminded of Her Majesty’s sense of service very recently, in the example she set for all of us 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.

And 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 – undoubtedly an image for the ages – as she demonstrated yet again her determination to lead by example.

She affirmed on that day, as she has done throughout her reign, 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 she has provided support and encouragement to many over the decades.

One of the great privileges of being First Minister, in common with my predecessors and with Prime Ministers over the past 70 years, is spending time with her privately.

These conversations are, of course, rightly confidential. But it is fair to say that the opportunity to talk with her and to benefit from her knowledge, wisdom and unique perspective on modern history has been an experience that I deeply value and will always cherish.

Presiding Officer,

It is of course the case that there are, and always have been, different views in our country, indeed in this chamber, about the institution of monarchy – and the democratic right to express those views is to be celebrated.

But the occasion of the Platinum Jubilee is not just about an institution. It is, above all, about the life and service of an extraordinary woman. Someone 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.

And so 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.

Presiding Officer, it is a pleasure and indeed it is my privilege, to move the motion in my name.

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