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Scottish Parliament opening Sunday, 4 July, 1999, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
Scotland's day of history
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in carriage
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh enjoy the day
Scotland is reflecting on an historic day which saw the return of its own parliament for the first time in nearly 300 years.

The Queen formally opened the parliament with a speech at the centre of a programme of events which had pageantry but an intentional lack of pomp.

As her speech ended, a specially-commissioned Mace was unveiled in public for the first time - a gift from the Queen marking the parliament's authority.

"This a society in which the qualities of co-operation, learning, entrepreneurial skill and national pride run deep," she said.

"The grit, determination and humour and forthrightness and above all the strong sense of identity of Scottish people are qualities which contribute so much to the life of the United Kingdom.

The Queen said these were qualities which occupied "a personal place in my own and my family's affections".

"I have trust in the good judgment of the Scottish people. I have faith in your commitment to their service and I am confident in the future of Scotland."

A trumpeter heralds the arrival of party leaders
In response, Scotland's First Minister Donald Dewar thanked the Queen for the Mace.

In an emotional speech, he said the day was a "turning point", in which democracy had been renewed in Scotland.

"This is about more than our politics and our laws," Mr Dewar declared. "This is about who we are, how we carry ourselves and in quiet moments of today, we might hear echoes on the past."

Six people, said to have links to Irish republican groups, were arrested after two incidents in which they scaled barriers on the Royal Mile and waved placards close to the Queen's carriage as she passed.

Royal Mile crowd
Crowds gathered in the Royal Mile
Earlier, political leaders made speeches in Parliament Hall, part of the law courts where the Scottish parliament last sat in 1707.

Mr Dewar apologised for Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has stayed in Belfast for the Northern Ireland talks.

He went on: "I count myself lucky indeed to be playing my part in turning vision into reality - a working constitution settlement, not just for Scotland but for the United Kingdom as a whole."

Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: "It is the people of Scotland, in the constitutional convention and then the referendum, who have created this new democracy and parliament that will be opened today."

Crown takes place

Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie prompted laughter when he said: "Some of us thought we would never see this day - some of us hoped we would never see this day."

Crown into Assembly Hall
The Crown of Scotland is carried into the Assembly Hall
In his address, the Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond welcomed the parliament but said Scotland's journey "is not over yet".

The Scottish Crown, which dates back to the 15th Century, was used in a public ceremony for the first time since 1953.

It was placed in front of the Queen in the Assembly Hall debating chamber alongside the Mace.

Guests included ambassadors from more than 30 countries, and speakers from 13 parliaments.

Leading figures from the armed forces, business, the churches entertainment and sport in Scotland were also present.

Sean Connery
Sean Connery watches proceedings
Celebrities rubbed shoulders with politicians. Sean Connery, an SNP supporter, wore a kilt for the occasion.

The proceedings then moved outside for a flyover by Concorde, the RAF's Red Arrows, a 21-gun salute from the castle and a parade by thousands of children.

An outdoor rock and classical music concerts, and the public display of Scotland's unused crown, found in a trunk in 1818 by Sir Walter Scott, were also held.

Steel's joy

The parliament's Presiding Officer Sir David Steel said: "We are bringing the government closer to the people.

"I think this is just a fantastic day for Scotland."

The Scottish Socialist MSP for Glasgow Pollok, Tommy Sheridan, an ardent anti-monarchist, boycotted the opening ceremony, as did the Independent MSP Dennis Canavan.

"This is supposed to be a great democracy day for Scotland so why isn't the whole of Scotland involved?" he said.

"It's a day for Edinburgh - for those and such of those. It's a very exclusive day."

Outfit secret

A designer originally from the Western Isles was responsible for the Queen's thistle-coloured outfit.

Sandra Murray made the purple frock coat and matching dress for the ceremony in total secrecy after being approached by Buckingham Palace about two months ago.

Sandra Murray
Sandra Murray: "Secret trips to London"
She even kept her assistant in the dark about the identity of her special customer in London.

"It was easier to keep it a secret because I don't think I would lasted the pace with people bombarding me, trying to get information out of me," she told BBC Scotland.

"I was left to get on with the job."

The Inverness-based designer says the theme was inspired by a Scottish misty autumnal landscape.

The BBC's Ken Macdonald hears about the last time a Scottlish parliament met - in 1707
Andrew Cassell looks back on Scotland's big day
Sir David Steel: "It's a fantastic day"
Tommy Sheridan: Boycotted Edinburgh ceremony
Sandra Murray: Kept the commission under wraps
See also:

01 Jul 99 | Scottish Parliament opening
01 Jul 99 | Scottish Parliament opening
01 Jul 99 | Scottish Parliament opening
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