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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 October, 2004, 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK
A sumptuous menu at Holyrood
Brian Taylor
By Brian Taylor
BBC Scotland political editor

The music was majestic, the speeches ditto. But curiously, or more likely by contrivance, it was the egalitarian triumph of the democratic intellect which will persist in the memory.

Too often at grand state occasions, the people can seem an adjunct, nasally pressed against the glass ceiling of dignity.

Parliament opening ceremony
MSPs joined in with Eddi Reader's rendition of Auld Lang Syne
Not, definitely not, at the royal opening of Holyrood, Scotland's new parliamentary home.

For sure, there were heralds, pursuivants and archers; each with a place, each with a colourful, historical role, adding to the splendour of the day. There were the civic leaders, robed and chained.

But ask yourself what you remember, really remember?

For me, three tastes from so sumptuous a menu.

George Reid's splendid speech from the presiding officer's chair. Eminently respectful to neighbouring monarchy - and yet a sonnet to Scotland's people, an exhortation to popular excellence.

Eddie Morgan's mischievous charisma of a poem, praising the iconoclastic modernity of the structure and enjoining our elected representatives to avoid stumbling into a "nest of fearties". The whole delivered in gloriously gallus fashion by Liz Lochhead.

Peering forward

And Auld Lang Syne. Eddi Reader's Auld Lang Syne.

First the old version of the tune, lilting, soulful. Then - urging the audience to sing - the familiar strain, at once looking back and peering forward.

Rival parties reaching out across the chamber to join hands.

One MSP told me later she felt momentarily like carrying on the party mood, perhaps striking up the customary wedding-close chorus of "For she's a jolly good fellow" to thank the Queen.

Today, more than anything, we have a parliament that has come of age in a country whose time has come
Jack McConnell
First Minister
As the archers mustered round the sovereign's departure, she thought again: "Perhaps better not."

Unfair, deeply unfair, I know, to name but three.

The politicians, first minister and all, were good too, both in new chamber and ancient Parliament Hall.

The Gaelic choir. Nicola Benedetti with a simply stunning display of musicianship. The RSNO, the army bands (Highland and Lowland), the flagsetters, the Selkirk band, the entertainers (external and internal), the Riding bands. Splendid, quite splendid.

It was bound to be, I suppose, that such a troubled construction project should reach such a triumphant conclusion.

For be in no doubt. This worked. It worked for Scotland.

Unfeigned delight

After commentating on the ceremony in the new chamber, I mingled with the guests at the Royal reception in the Garden Lobby (If you're going to gatecrash, aim high).

I made a point of speaking to the diplomatic observers from other countries, both consuls based in Edinburgh and parliamentary speakers from other legislatures.

All voiced absolute, unfeigned delight with the building - and its opening. Such a reaction will be conveyed internationally.

The most common reaction from Scots guests? Delight, yes. But a faint feeling of wonder that Scotland could pull off such a day.

Nicola Benedetti
Violinist Nicola Benedetti performed at the ceremony
Just look at what we have, one said. A poet like Edwin Morgan, a musician like Nicola Benedetti, a singer like Eddi Reader.

The sheer skill and endeavour to conjure the contemporary Riding into eager existence, local heroes, children, banners, bands, all.

Wasn't it great? I readily agreed, thinking all the while: isn't it slightly worrying that we are still surprised?

When will we finally be done with the ragged remnants of the Caledonian cringe?

What was it Eddie Morgan wrote in his poem for the day? "Dear friends, dear lawgivers, dear parliamentarians, you are picking up a thread of pride and self-esteem that has been almost but not quite, oh no not quite, not ever broken or forgotten."

Silversmith Graham Stewart with his work
The sculpture was unveiled by the Queen
And what was it Jack McConnell said in his address? "Today, more than anything, we have a parliament that has come of age in a country whose time has come."

So what remains? Well, a building fit for purpose.

Hideously over budget, horribly late. Those facts remain.

But present, correct and increasingly acclaimed.

My utterly subjective view? I think it's stunning.

And in its main entrance hall a striking sculpture by silversmith Graham Stewart, recalling the Honours of Scotland, the ancient royal regalia, including the Crown which featured on the opening day itself.

The Honours of Scotland. Legacy of a remarkable regal day.

But also perhaps, just perhaps, the legacy of a day which serves as a signpost to future democratic optimism.


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