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EDITIONS
Scottish Parliament opening Thursday, 1 July, 1999, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
A moment anchored in history
Donald Dewar:
Donald Dewar: "Democracy was renewed in Scotland"
Scotland's First Minister Donald Dewar replied to the Queen's address with a speech thanking her for the Mace, the parliament's symbol of authority.

Here is the text in full:

"Your Majesty, on behalf of the people of Scotland I thank you for the gift of the Mace.

It is a symbol of the great democratic traditions from which we draw our inspiration and our strength.

At its head are inscribed the opening words of our founding statute: "There shall be a Scottish Parliament".

Through long years, many long years in the case of many of us, those words were first a hope, then a belief, then a promise. Now they are a reality.

This is indeed a moment anchored in our history. Today we can reach back to the long haul to win this parliament, to the struggles of those who brought democracy to Scotland, to that other parliament dissolved in controversy over 300 years ago.

Today we can look forward to the time when this moment will be seen as a turning point - the day when democracy was renewed in Scotland when we revitalised our place in this, our United Kingdom.

This is about more than our politics and our laws. This is about who we are, how we carry ourselves.

Distant echoes

And in the quiet moments of today - if there are any - we might hear some echoes from the past: the shout of the welder in the din of the great Clyde shipyards, the speak of the Mearns rooted in the land, the discourse of the enlightenment when Edinburgh and Glasgow were indeed a light held to the intellectual life of Europe, the wild cry of the great pipes and back to the distant noise of battles in the days of Bruce and Wallace.

The Queen and Donald Dewar
Her Majesty listens intently to the first minister
The past is part of us, part of every one of us and we respect it. But today there is a new voice in the land, the voice of a democratic parliament, a voice to shape Scotland, a voice above all for the future.

Walter Scott wrote that only a man with soul so dead could have no sense, no feel for his native land.

For me - and I think in this I speak at least for any Scot today - this is a proud moment, a new stage in a journey begun long ago and which has no end. This is a proud day for all of us.

A Scottish Parliament, not an end but a means to greater ends and these too are part of our Mace. Woven into the symbolic thistles are these four words - wisdom, justice, compassion, integrity.

Burns would have understood that. We've just heard beautifully sung one of his most enduring works, and at the heart of that song is a very Scottish conviction that honesty and simple dignity are priceless virtues not imparted by rank or birth or privilege but part of the soul.

Burns believed that sense of worth ultimately prevail, he believed that was the core of politics and that without it our profession is inevitably impoverished.

Timeless values

Wisdom, justice, compassion, integrity - timeless values, honourable aspirations for this new forum of democracy born on the cusp of a new century.

We are fallible - we all know that. We will make mistakes but I hope and I believe we will never lose sight of what brought us here - the striving to do right by the people of Scotland, to respect their priorities, to better their lot and to contribute to the common weal.

I look forward to the days ahead and I know there will be many of them. This chamber will sound with debate, argument and passion, when men and women from all over Scotland will meet to work together for a future built on the first principles of social justice.

But today we pause and reflect.

It is a rare privilege in an old nation to open a new parliament. Today is and must be a celebration of the principles, the traditions, the democratic imperatives which have brought us to this point and which will sustain us in the future.

Your Majesty, we are proud that you are here today to hansel this parliament and here with us as we dedicate ourselves to the work that lies ahead.

Your Majesty, our thanks."

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Donald Dewar thanks the Queen for her gift
Links to more Scottish Parliament opening stories are at the foot of the page.


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