Queen to address Nicola Sturgeon and MSPs in key speech at today’s Holyrood opening

Queen welcomes local schoolchildren to Balmoral Estate

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The 95-year-old monarch will be accompanied to this poignant event by Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall – known by the titles of the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay while north of the border. The content of Her Majesty’s speech has been kept under wraps but it is known this special ceremony will focus on the contribution made by outstanding Scots during the pandemic.

Ahead of the official opening of the devolved Parliament, the Queen will meet party and parliamentary leaders in the garden lobby.

The Queen’s entrance in the debating chamber, where she is to deliver her address, will be accompanied by Fanfare for the Opening of Parliament 2021, composed by John Wallace and conducted by John Logan. It is performed by the Royal Conservatoire Brass.

Music will be pivotal during this ceremony. Among performers scheduled to play a part in the Holyrood opening will be Musicians in Exile – a group of Glasgow-based performers made up of asylum seekers and refugees.

Poetry will also be front and centre. 

Michael Biggins, BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2021, will perform Ae Fond Kiss by Scottish poet Robert Burns and Kirn Street by himself.

Kathleen Jamie, newly appointed by the Scottish Government as Makar, will then perform a specially commissioned poem, followed by the National Youth Choir of Scotland singing the song We Hold The Future.

The Queen’s departure from the chamber will be accompanied by Farewell to the Creeks, to be performed by the Scottish Parliament’s Piper Stuart McMillan MSP from the Members’ Garden.

Following the ceremony, Prince Charles, Camilla and the Queen will meet with some of the Scots who have been hailed local heroes for their extraordinary contribution to the community during the Covid crisis.

Among them is Linda Williams, a shopkeeper from Edinburgh who during the pandemic set up a coronavirus hardship fund at the Premier Broadway Convenience Store in Oxgangs.

This initiative, with the aim to help hundreds of locals pay for essentials such as utility bills and food, eventually raised more that £10,000.

Ms Williams said: “I am very happy to have been nominated, although I certainly wasn’t looking for any thanks or recognition.

“It has been such a hard 18 months for everyone, and I think we played a small part in making life a bit easier for our customers and neighbours by setting up a free same-day delivery service and starting a hardship fund to help those who slipped through the cracks of the financial help that was available. 

“Our community rose to the occasion magnificently; people were incredibly generous with their donations, and the whole experience became a shining light of hope during a hard time.”

The local heroes were chosen by Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone, who is also set to deliver a speech during the ceremony.

Ahead of the Holyrood opening, she said: “Our local heroes initiative is all about celebrating people from across Scotland for their contributions to their communities throughout the pandemic and beyond.

“The many actions and achievements of those nominated are truly inspiring. 

“So many of our local heroes have put others before themselves, for the good of others. 

“I am proud the Scottish Parliament will recognise people like Linda and that our local heroes will play a part in our 2021 opening ceremony.”

The Queen has been residing at Balmoral since July 23, when she started her first summer break without Prince Philip.

The monarch officially ended her holidays yesterday, when she stepped out of the castle to join her son Charles and pupils at Crathie Primary School to officially launch the Queen’s Green Canopy initiative – which invites Britons to “plant a tree for the jubilee”. 

The monarch appeared in excellent form as she helped the Prince of Wales pour soil over a copper beech sapling they planted next to a horse paddock and the cricket pavilion on the Aberdeenshire estate.

After posing for a picture, the Queen chatted with the schoolchildren and received a handmade card marking the end of her traditional summer break.

Annie Hutchin, six, and Skye Jones, nine, presented the sovereign with the present.

Little Annie recalled her conversation with Her Majesty, saying: “She asked how we made it and said we did a lovely job.” 

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