AS THE new MSP for East Lothian, I was fortunate to hear Queen Elizabeth II paying tribute to the people of Scotland.

Opening the new Parliamentary session in 2021, Her Majesty recorded her “deep and abiding affection for this wonderful country”, adding: “It is often said that it is the people that make a place, and there are few places where this is truer than in Scotland”.

The respectful service of thanksgiving at St Giles’ Cathedral, featuring the symbols of Scotland’s historic nationhood, honoured the late Queen in our magnificent and dignified capital city, revealing to the world the nation’s whole-hearted respect. It demonstrated that the Queen’s regard for Scotland was reciprocated by those who recognised her dedication as a constitutional monarch.

Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and other modern European democracies have monarchs and, although views about heads of state may differ, Holyrood has undoubtedly benefited from the Queen’s support since Parliament reconvened in 1999. As a life-long republican, I still respect that support.

For Her Majesty that was “a moment rare in the life of any nation when we step across the threshold of a new constitutional age”. The Queen told MSPs then of her “trust in the good judgment of the Scottish people. I have faith in your commitment to their service and I am confident in the future of Scotland”.

Fate dictated that, in under a week, Scotland acquired a new UK Prime Minister representing a party that Scotland did not vote for, and a head of state that it could not vote for; of the two, however, it was the ceremony of proclamation of King Charles III, televised for the first time ever, that showed the UK the distinctiveness of Scotland’s institutions of church, law and parliament.

Vowing to follow the Queen’s example in upholding constitutional government, the King declared that, in carrying out his duties, he would be “guided by the counsel” of elected parliaments, including Scotland’s.

When Queen Elizabeth II was proclaimed in 1952, there was no Scottish Parliament to advise her but, during her long reign, devolution transformed UK democracy. The late Queen steadfastly encouraged Holyrood as it invented a new way of governing Scotland; that is a legacy to be both honoured and protected.