Queen will dress down for Scotland

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The Independent Online
THE QUEEN will be dressing down for the opening of Scotland's home-rule parliament in Edinburgh. In keeping with the Scots' notion of the people as sovereign, the ceremony on 1 July will be dignified but without the gilded extravagances of the state opening of the Westminster parliament.

Scotland's new legislators, civic leaders and young people will process on foot from Parliament House, scene of the last meeting of the pre- Union parliament in 1707, to the temporary home of its successor in the Church of Scotland Assembly Hall.

The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince of Wales and escorted by 16 troopers of the Household Cavalry, will travel along the Royal Mile in an open carriage from Holyrood Palace to the Assembly Hall. It is intended to bring her closer to the public than the enclosed state carriage used in Westminster.

The main elements of the ceremony were announced in Edinburgh yesterday, although it will be for the Presiding Officer of the new parliament - the equivalent of Speaker - and newly elected members to finalise details.

The Scottish Office said the Queen would not be wearing a crown and full ceremonial robes. "MSPs will wear ordinary day dress. Neither the presiding officer nor anyone else will wear robes," officials said.

"The Queen will dress in a manner appropriate to a dignified, historic but modern occasion."

George Reid, constitutional affairs spokesman of the Scottish National Party, said it would have been wrong for the Queen to be wearing robes while surrounded by men in suits.

The Duke of Hamilton, hereditary keeper of the Palace of Holyrood House - a role his ancestors have fulfilled since 1640 - kept his own counsel. "The last thing the Queen needs is advice from someone like me on how to dress," he said.

The Queen will make an opening speech before the 129 parliamentarians and 500 guests, but will not read out the home-rule government's legislative programme.

One thousand children from all over Scotland will parade past a royal dias outside the Assembly Hall and there will be an RAF fly-past, despite earlier differences over a military element.

Among the newly elected MSPs may be the first Green elected to a national parliament in Britain. After decades of standing as no-hopers, mocked by many as the "sandals and brown rice" element, the fairer voting system for the Scottish elections give Greens a good chance of at least one seat.

The system also benefits other fringe parties, notably the Scottish Socialists headed by Tommy Sheridan, the Glasgow councillor who went to jail rather than pay the poll tax.

It is ironic the Greens' break should come in Scotland, where voters have traditionally shown least interest in middle-class notions of saving the planet, but it raises intriguing possibilities. The Greens could actually hold the balance of power in a Scottish Parliament, pushing up the agenda the issue of banning genetically modified food.

Greens sit in 17 parliaments across Europe but the winner-take-all system in Britain has always thwarted them at the top level. Scotland does not even have any Green councillors while in England and Wales there are more than 100.