Scotland’s political leaders have paid tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh in a special session of the Scottish Parliament.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon led tributes to the “deeply interesting and fiercely intelligent” Duke, who died on Friday at the age of 99, as MSPs were recalled to Holyrood for just the sixth time in the history of devolution.
Flags outside Holyrood have been flying at half-mast as a mark of respect and political campaigning was suspended over the weekend.
The Parliament stood for a minute’s silence at 11am on Monday before party leaders spoke about Prince Philip’s accomplishments and decades of public service.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs: “The tributes paid to the Duke of Edinburgh over these last few days show the affection in which he was held here in Scotland, across the United Kingdom and, indeed, around the world.
“On behalf of the people of Scotland I express my deepest sympathy to Her Majesty the Queen, who is grieving the loss of her strength and stay, her husband, and also to the Duke’s children and to the wider Royal family.”
The first minister said she had always enjoyed conversations with Philip and said it was right to “mourn his passing and extend our deepest sympathy to Her Majesty the Queen and her family”.
“He was a thoughtful man, deeply interesting and fiercely intelligent,” Ms Sturgeon said. “He was also a serious bookworm, which I am too, so talking about the books we were reading was often, for me, a real highlight of our conversations.”
She described the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh as a “true partnership”.
“He faced the additional challenge of being the husband of a powerful woman at a time when that was even more of an exception than it is today,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“That reversal of the more traditional dynamic was highly unusual in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, and even now isn’t as common as it might be. Yet the Duke of Edinburgh was devoted to supporting the Queen – they were a true partnership.”
‘He demonstrated huge commitment’
Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson also used her tribute to frame the Duke as a moderniser “in life as well as in work”, adding: “How many men in the 1950s gave up their job for their wife’s career?”
“It was clear that not only was he a man of huge practical ability – a decorated and talented naval officer, a qualified pilot, a natural sailor and horseman – he also had interests and passions that he wanted to use his position to drive forward,” she said.
“He focused on engineering, research, youth, the outdoors and conservation.
“In a life that could so easily have been one shallow wave, a ribbon cut, a couple of public remarks before on to the next engagement, he demonstrated huge commitment to the organisations that he championed.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said Philip was an “extraordinary public servant” and highlighted the story of a young man who took part in the Duke of Edinburgh awards while in prison as “just one life the Prince helped save”.
“This is hard for anyone, no matter how many years have been shared – the Queen has lost her beloved husband after spending more than 70 years together,” Mr Sawar said.
“I can’t even begin to imagine how that must feel, and my thoughts and prayers are with Her Majesty.”
Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said Prince Philip had “left lasting impressions with so many” through “fun and memorable” memories.
He added that “his impact on millions of others has been utterly outstanding” and the Prince was responsible for “changing lives forever”.
‘We do not all share the same feelings’
However, Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie raised the Duke’s “extreme wealth, privilege and status” as he revealed his party considered boycotting the tributes.
Mr Harvie, whose party supports abolishing the monarchy, said it would be “wrong to give a performance of feelings not sincerely felt” and noted 150,000 deaths from Covid-19 around the UK have been announced mostly “without ceremony as daily statistics”.
He insisted his party does not want to show the Duke any “personal disrespect” and offered condolences to the Prince’s friends, family and “those who will miss him”.
Mr Harvie said: “In this chamber, as in this country, we do not all share the same views of the monarchy, or the same feelings today. It would be wrong to pretend that we did.
“And as a party which wishes for an elected head of state, we reflected carefully on whether and how we should take part in today’s proceedings.
“But just as it would be wrong to give a performance of feelings not sincerely felt, it would equally be wrong to imply by our absence any kind of personal disrespect to those who have lost someone important to them, whether personally or otherwise.”