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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 October, 2004, 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK
Edinburgh's day of quiet dignity
By Graeme Esson
BBC News Online Scotland

It was, as Presiding Office George Reid had predicted, a day of quiet Scottish dignity.

People waving flags
Those living on the street had a perfect view of the event
Thousands thronged to Edinburgh's Royal Mile to witness the official opening of the Scottish Parliament.

But perhaps mindful of the controversy which has dogged the project, there was no bluster accompanying the events to mark the completion of its new home.

For those arriving in Edinburgh on Saturday morning, there were plenty symbols of Scottish pride on display.

Waverley Station was full of people wearing kilts and carrying saltires - although their destination was Glasgow and the World Cup qualifier clash between Scotland and Norway.

Their journey ended in the disappointment of a 1-0 defeat.

Crash barriers

Up on the Royal Mile, however, the day began with a feeling that history was being made.

Children were hoisted onto shoulders to catch a view of the royal arrival at Parliament Hall, which housed the parliament until the Union of 1707.

People pressed themselves into position against the crash barriers at the top of The Mound and shops closed their tills as staff went outside to witness the event.

Dressed up in period costume, the Scottish Youth Theatre kept the growing crowd entertained with their take on the country's past.

People waving flags
Those living on the street had a perfect view of the event
A stir went through the crowd when the Queen made her arrival at about 1030 BST, then the craning of necks went into overdrive when she left Parliament Hall to meet some of the crowd.

Some of the early arrivers were greeted with a royal audience, while those further back in the throng had to make do with a view of a purple hat bobbing along a few feet away.

The party atmosphere at the upper end of the Royal Mile continued as the riding began.

The procession involved 1,000 people from across Scottish society, with each MSP bringing along one person who they believed had made a contribution to the lives of others.

Some of those pressed into the narrow streets of the Royal Mile had a wave or a cheer for the face that they recognised.

However, it was the public figures who drew the most attention - with Sir Sean Connery gathering the greatest cheers as people ran to catch a glimpse of the actor.

Numbers swelled

People were finding vantage points where they could, be it on window ledges or in shop windows.

However, as the procession made its way down the Royal Mile the atmosphere seemed to start drifting away.

In some sections the crowd was only one deep behind the crash barriers, before the numbers swelled again the closer you came to the parliament itself.

The odd dissenting voice also began to make itself heard near the building, with one group of protesters lambasting the amount of money it had cost.

Protesters
Some protesters were escorted from the area
A group of nationalist supporters also struck a discordant note outside the entrance to Holyrood.

They had pitched up with banners proclaiming independence, but as the royal procession came closer they were asked to take them down or move to the official protest area.

After being threatened with arrest, the irate members of Young Scots for Independence agreed to move - just as the Queen made her entrance.

As proceedings got under way in the main chamber, so things began to fizzle out outside the parliament.

When he announced plans for the opening back in April, the presiding officer had said it would be a day of "quiet Scottish dignity".

Street procession
The procession headed down the Royal Mile
However, with the procession over most of those who had lined the streets decided to make a dignified exit.

Others milled about aimlessly, wondering what was going on inside - and complaining about the lack of atmosphere in an area which was once a brewery.

There was music and theatre on offer, but the stages providing the entertainment were hardly turning people away - and even the insistent drum-beat emanating from performers outside Dynamic Earth was not enough to attract more than a few dozen spectators.

A few hardy souls did brave the chill to climb Salisbury Crags for a bird's eye view of the building in an attempt to see Holyrood in its full glory.

The rest of the crowd drifted away, leaving a few hundred to witness the Queen's departure from the building shortly before 1400 BST.

However, the crowd did manage one last cheer as she made the short walk to her official residence in Scotland, the Palace of Holyroodhouse.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See how Scotland celebrated Holyrood's opening



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