Queen Elizabeth II was engaging, friendly and a model of professional duty – Angus Robertson MSP

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Events since the death of Queen Elizabeth in Scotland are unprecedented in living memory.

The last monarch to die north of the border was James V in 1542. He was buried in Holyrood Abbey, close to where the coffin of Queen Elizabeth has lain in the adjoining Holyrood Palace.

The funeral procession from Balmoral to Holyrood was of an altogether different kind of royal procession to past centuries when the Scottish monarch travelled through the realm.

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What previously was not accessible to most of the public has, with the death of Queen Elizabeth, been an altogether different experience. From the news of her death via social media, to the live TV coverage of the Accession Council, her lying in rest in St Giles Cathedral, and commemorations in the Scottish Parliament with new King Charles III, the public has been present.

It is a little over a year since I last saw Queen Elizabeth in person, when she opened the Scottish Parliament, which I was newly elected to in 2021 as MSP for Edinburgh Central.

In total, she visited the parliament ten times, formally opening the new session after six Holyrood elections. The Queen also attended special anniversary sittings marking its first and second decades, as well as the formal opening of the new building opposite Holyrood palace and a Golden Jubilee sitting in Aberdeen.

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The parliament always sits in the presence of the symbolic mace which was a gift from the Queen, and is inscribed with the words “integrity, compassion, wisdom and justice”. The Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, Alison Johnstone, rightly noted these words were "clearly reflected throughout Her Majesty's life”.

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Queen Elizabeth II was friendly and engaging (Picture: Steve Parsons/pool/AFP via Getty Images)Queen Elizabeth II was friendly and engaging (Picture: Steve Parsons/pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II was friendly and engaging (Picture: Steve Parsons/pool/AFP via Getty Images)

The Queen herself described the opening of the parliament in 1999 as "rare moment" in the life of the nation "when we step across the threshold of a new constitutional age”. She said that she had "trust in the good judgement of the Scottish people", adding that she was "confident in the future of Scotland”.

I had the good fortune to meet Queen Elizabeth a good number of times as Westminster leader of the SNP and a member of the Privy Council. Whether it was at annual commemorations at the Cenotaph, state receptions or events in Scotland, she was always engaging, friendly and a model of professional duty.

It is understandable that the public focus has been heavily focussed on the life of Queen Elizabeth, the new King Charles III and the wider Royal Family.

However, appreciation should be noted for the thousands of people who have worked so hard to prepare for the eventuality of the monarch’s death in Scotland. Given the regularity that Queen Elizabeth spent time in Scotland and her advancing age, it was a potential likelihood which led to the extremely detailed planning that went into “Operation Unicorn”.

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In Scotland, the overall responsibility for Operation Unicorn rested with the Lord Lyon King of Arms with its delivery by the Scottish Government, together with the Royal Household, City of Edinburgh Council, Police Scotland, Scottish Parliament, Kings Bodyguard in Scotland, military participants, St Giles Cathedral and many other agencies and individuals.

The death of Queen Elizabeth has touched people across the nation. Commemorations of her life in Edinburgh have been fitting and respectful, as they have been elsewhere too. She deserved no less.

Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary

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