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A very SScottish affair; After the doubts, debts and delays, we did it our way.

Byline: By Joan Burnie

THE Queen was in the pink - or if you want to be fancy, cerise.

But then this, the official opening of our brand new parliament, was not a particularly fancy affair.

As HM reminded us in her speech, there had been a few difficulties along the way.

You could say that again. All pounds 431million of them.

But Saturday was not a day for looking back. It was for looking forward and also for simply looking at what we have, finally, after all that toil and trouble, got for our money.

And, do you know, it's not half bad. In fact, it is magnificent. A great fabulous lump of a building full of blonde wood and light which on this, its official christening day, shone and seemed to smile at those of us who had gathered there.

I think, and hope, we'll not only learn to like it in time but even come to believe it was worth the fortune spent on it. Really.

Five years ago when the building was a dream and a hole in the ground, HM opened its temporary stand-in up the hill with much pomp and not a little circumstance.

There were grand carriage processions, prancing Life Guards and perhaps too many expectations. Neither new parliaments nor parliamentarians are built in a day.

In 1999, Concorde and the Red Arrows streaked across the Edinburgh sky. But on Saturday, a solitary Nimrod flew stolidly overhead - an air force workhorse replacing the glamour boys. It somehow seemed appropriate.

Up at the old Parliament Hall, vacated by the last Scots MPs in 1707, there was still room for some Scottish pageantry.

The State trumpeters blew and the Lyon King and his heralds rolled along in gorgeous fancy dress.

The Royal Company of Archers were there, prepared to defend HM against all comers if the tightest security ever seen in the capital failed - and their feathers didn't get in the way of their bows.

There were some speeches, blessedly short,before they all went out for the 'riding' - which is actually walked.

The MSPs and their guests fell in behind the banners and the bands, and strolled chummily through the crowds down the grey Royal Mile in the pale morning sunshine.

For a cold day, there was a decent enough turn-out.

And if as some carped that there were fewer at Holyrood than at Hampden, at least we saw the better show, The flags waved. The people waved.The MSPs waved. HM waved. Everybody waved at everybody else.

If there were few loud cheers, there were no discernible jeers either, although one small girl sitting on her daddy's shoulders was disappointed the Queen wasn't wearing her crown.

'Queens wear crowns, daddy,' she said.

And Sean Connery, who usually wears his kilt for these grand Scottish occasions, was in mufti. Maybe he too felt that this time around, something quieter was required.

But as he walked among the people, he was a king. They enjoy Sir Sean. He is a success - our Lad o' Pairts, the guy who took on Hollywood and won and who yearns for Holyrood to win as well.

When he passed through its doors, he seemed to nod slightly to himself and briefly touched the white rose of Scotland in his buttonhole.

The poet Hugh McDiarmid says the rose breaks the heart - but sometimes it can lift it.

As everyone took their seats for the ceremony, the royal party had a look around her new neighbours' home.

It is usually impossible to know what HM thinks behind that set face and those slightly pursed lips.

But her husband at least appeared to like what he saw.Maybe it reminded the former sailor of a ship as its architect, the late Enric Miralles, intended.

The royal couple were also introduced to Marion and Iain Dewar, the children of the late Donald Dewar in the room which is named in his honour and whose spirit was surely hovering around us.

Donald would have been proud. Then the Scottish National Orchestra launched into Fanfare for the Common Man as the Queen entered the chamber. Donald might have approved the choice of music too.

Presiding Officer George Reid welcomed the royals in English and somewhat self-conscious Gaelic before we got the real thing - the sublime sound of the Lewis Psalm singers. If angels sing, they must sing in Gaelic.

The presiding officer's mind was on more temporal matters, powerfully reminding us that the building of itself was not the parliament but simply a means to a greater end.

Eddi Reader followed, throwing herself, as only Eddi can, into Wild Mountainside before the Queen rose to remind the MSPs of the task ahead of them: ' To give voice to the hopes of the people, their families and friends.'

Nicola Benedetti, prettier than any pop star, fiddled beautifully six minutes and thirty seconds of Rondo Capriccioso by Saint-Saens.

After that, nobody could fail to understand why she won the Young Musician of the Year Competition - even if they weren't sure what Saint-Saens had to do with anything.

Benedetti's artistry was matched by Liz Lochhead declaiming a poem by our Makar - - the Scots poet laureate - Edwin Morgan, which once more hit the spot: 'What do the people want of this place? 'A nest of fearties is what they do not want.

'A phalanx of forelock tuggers is what they do not want 'And perhaps above all the droopy mantra of ,'It wizny me....' By now we were almost done. Jack McConnell rose. His kilt was a trifle short but it wasn't pin-striped.

We all, thanks to the building, had a spring in our steps, he said, which was fair enough, because against all the expectations we had done ourselves proud and we knew it.

The best, however, was yet to come. Eddi began singing sang Auld Lang Syne and half way through urged us all to sing along. No one could have stopped us. Auld political enemies as well as auld acquaintances linked voices, arms and hands.

Prince Philip grasped a deputy presiding officer - who couldn't quite believe it. George Reid looked sideways at HM and forbore to grasp her royal hand - probably a wise move.

Afterwards, there was a grand party. No one, apart from the football fans, wanted to leave. Some criticised the lack of so-called celebrities but give me the local heroes nominated by their MSPs every time There were ordinary but extra-ordinary folk such as Clydeside welder Duncan Dymock, community worker Jimmy O'Rourke, Shopmobility founder Gale Falconer, Isabella Hunter, who delivers meals on wheels, and Willie McMartin of International Rescue.

These are OUR people. This is OUR parliament. Now it's time to get down to business and make it work - for us and our kids and all our tomorrows.

And to that small child - we don't really need a Queen in a crown turning up to do it.


GOOD SYNE: Everyone joined in the singing at the close of the ceremony; HOLLYWOOD TO HOLYROOD: Sir; Sean ditched the kilt for a dark suit and tartan tie
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 11, 2004
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