IN the 20 years since it was reconstituted, the Scottish Parliament has "become the democratic institution which people" in Scotland "look to, to reflect their priorities, values, hopes and dreams,’’ Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday at an emotional ceremony to mark the anniversary.

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The First Minister was responding to a speech by the Queen, who was at Holyrood yesterday. She had also been at the re-opening of the Parliament on July 1, 1999, before the Parliament building had been completed.

Sturgeon said the Parliament had “long come of age” and told the Queen: “Ever since the Parliament reconvened 20 years ago the mace that you gifted to us has been our most treasured possession. The words inscribed on it, wisdom, integrity, justice, compassion, are a daily reminder of the values we must live up to.

“And your remarks on that day noting that Scotland was stepping across the threshold of a new constitutional era captured the significance of the occasion.

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“They conveyed both the optimism on the rebirth of this institution and also the scale of the challenge we faced.

“Now there were times, perhaps especially in those first few years, when the sense of challenge seemed to outweigh the sense of optimism.

“But the hopes you expressed for us in 1999 have to a great extent been vindicated.

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“Although this Parliament is only 20 years young it has long come of age.’’

The First Minister said the 290 acts passed by the Parliament over the last two decades had “varied in their impact”.

“But from land reform in the first Parliament to equal marriage in the last to the Social Security Act in this, they have all made Scotland a better place.

“And we are now looking forward to a new decade in which this Parliament will build new institutions and I am sure see further change and development.”

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Speaking to MSPs in the chamber at Holyrood, the Queen said the legislature was at the “centre of Scottish public life”.

“We fondly remember that proud day, when new members gathered in the Assembly Hall to celebrate Scotland’s first parliament in 300 years,” she said. “I have noted on previous occasions my great affection for Scotland, and the many happy and personal connections I enjoy with this wonderful country.

“It has been with great pleasure that over the years I have watched Scotland grow and prosper, and have been with you at each stage of your parliamentary life, including on landmark occasions such as today.

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“Twenty years on, this chamber continues to be at the centre of Scottish public life, as an important forum to engage and unite diverse communities and also a home for passionate debate and discussion.”

The Queen was accompanied by Prince Charles, the Duke of Rothesay, and a raft of courtiers including the Royal Archers, her ceremonial bodyguard when she’s in Edinburgh.

Among them was their Captain General, the Duke of Buccleuch, one of Scotland’s largest landowners.

His presence was notable because one of the Parliament’s most significant achievements over the course of the last two decades has been land reform – a measure he long opposed.

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There was, yesterday, a better turnout than at the tenth anniversary, when more than a third of MSPs didn’t bother showing up.

Back then red-faced Holyrood officials were forced to invite 15 members of parliamentary staff to sit in MSPs’ seats, to create the appearance of a full chamber.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie was one of those who dinghied the monarch back in 2009, using the day to instead move constituency office.

But yesterday he told the Queen that the Scottish Parliament had helped improve rights for Scotland’s LGBT community, including the repealing of Section 28, which had banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

“We saw Parliament take on an issue which was harming us, face down prejudice and assert our equal place in Scottish society,” he said.

“Since that time a marginalised community has grown in confidence, thanks to a Parliament which to this day has never once voted against our equality and human rights.”

Harvie continued: “We’re now living in a time of political turmoil, uncertainty, in the midst of a climate emergency, and an ecological crisis.

“As we look ahead we must again grow into the role that is needed of a modern parliament.

In her remarks, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, who was just 20 in 1999, said she had watched the opening of Parliament in Edinburgh University’s Student Union.

“I didn’t know then what a Scottish Parliament would look or sound like,” she said.

“How it would change the political landscape and grow to dominate our country’s public life.

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“But there was a sense that for our generation the equation had changed, that evolution offered new possibilities, not just for Scotland but all our family of nations.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said he was proud to be the leader of the party which, in government, delivered devolution, but he said, over the last decade, “the rich have got richer as the poor have got poorer. We passed laws to end homelessness but all around we see lengthening waiting lists for housing and the return of rough sleeping.”

He told the Queen: “We need a rebalancing of the economy. We need an economy run by and for the people, and we need a little less market and a bit more planning.

“People are hungry for real change.”

The LibDem response was delivered by veteran MSP Tavish Scott, who last week announced he was to resign as Shetland’s MSP.

He said: “Scotland is an immeasurably stronger place today. Let this Parliament flourish and those who serve next enjoy the spirit of discussion, the argument and yes, the downright row. It’s been my honour to serve the people of Shetland and to play a part in the evolution of Scotland’s democracy.”

At the centre of the celebration was a new poem by Scotland’s Makar Jackie Kay.

Part spoken in Gaelic, partly signed, and partly sung, the epic piece, towards the end, The Long View, addressed the “Parliament’s bairns” the children born on the July 1, the day the Parliament reconvened.

Fifty-five of those were in Holyrood’s public gallery, many had last been there in 2009.

There was also a new fanfare for the Queen, by Methil composer, John Wallace, and an arrangement of Loch Lomond, sung by the National Youth Choir of Scotland.

A highlight of the day was the unexpected and unscheduled singing of A Man’s A Man for A That by Sheena Wellington.

The tune was first played on the pipes by MSP Stuart MacMillan as the Royals left the chamber, as he played it again, Wellington, encouraged by others, stood up and sang. She was soon joined by MSPs.