Baha'i News -- Jubilee tour diary: Scottish mainland Tuesday, 28 May, 2002, 09:27 GMT 10:27 UK

Jubilee tour diary: Scottish mainland

Nick Higham on the Queens Jubilee tour
Nick Higham is following the Queen's Jubilee tour
The BBC's arts and media correspondent Nick Higham is following the Queen on her Jubilee tour of the UK.

This is the fifth in a series of dispatches from around the country.


Thursday 23 May

To begin with, the royal tour of Scotland seems a rather lacklustre affair.

Weather and crowds alike are disappointing.

Only when the royal progress at last reaches some of the remotest parts of the kingdom does it seem to catch fire.

Things get off to a downbeat start in Glasgow with a service of thanksgiving in the city's imposing but rather dour cathedral.

The Queen arrives straight from the airport.

There to welcome her is a contingent from her official bodyguard in Scotland, the Royal Company of Archers - distinguished elderly gents in dark green uniforms and rakish bonnets, equipped with crossbows.

The Queen is shown an example of Chinese calligraphy reading Good Luck, Good Fortune, and Long Life, as she meets
community groups in Glasgow
Glasgow's visit brought together multi-cultural groups
To a man (there are no women) the Royal Company are representatives of the Scottish establishment - the sort of Scots who speak with English accents.

Their presence means this is a rather old-fashioned and formal royal occasion - not, at first sight, the kind of inclusive event the palace nowadays prefers.

But the establishment is a broader church than it once was - quite literally. Representatives of most branches of Scottish Christianity are there, including the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, and leading figures from virtually every other faith: Jews and Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus, Buddhists and Baha'is.

John Knox, the famously dour founding father of Scots Presbyterianism, stares across at the cathedral from his monument on the opposite hill.

What would this "incorruptible guardian of our best interests", in the words of the inscription, have thought of it all? Judging by his views on papists, not much.

If the cathedral service is an occasion for the toffs, a walkabout in George Square in the city centre is supposed to be a chance to meet the people. But few turn out.

Police estimates of the crowds range from 1,500 to 3,000.

It looks like more to me - but either way it's a far cry from the 250,000 who reputedly surged into the city centre during the Silver Jubilee tour of 1977.

But the lacklustre turnout can't take the shine off the occasion for those who actually meet the Queen in a giant marquee along one side of the square.

There are people like Terry Ng of the Wing Hong group, which looks after older members of Glasgow's 20,000-strong Chinese community, or Sister Caroline Shotter of the Erskine Mains home for ex-servicemen.

Royal approval

The royal stamp of approval will, she tells me, do a lot for the morale of staff and (especially) residents at the home.

Malcolm McIntyre, aged 16, is there representing Crossroads, a charity which supports people who care at home for family members.

Malcolm looks after his mother.

For him too it's a great day - though, as he admits, many of his Scottish school friends are less enthusiastic about the royals.

Many younger Scots are not so much hostile to the monarchy as indifferent to it, and liable at the drop of a hat to tell you that it costs too much and is too remote from ordinary Scottish people.

Friday 24 May

The weather certainly isn't helping the tour. At the Falkirk Wheel 3,000 invited guests sit stoically in their plastic macs as they wait in a blustery wind and alternating rain, hail and sunshine for the Queen's arrival.

Another 1,000 or so have hiked up the road uninvited, to stand looking down on the circular canal basin at the foot of the wheel.

It would surely have been many more if the weather had been kinder.

Security

But if the crowds are a disappointment the wheel itself isn't.

It's the world's only rotating boat lift, built to link two canals, the Union Canal from Edinburgh to Falkirk and, more than 100 feet below it, the Forth and Clyde Canal from Glasgow to Grangemouth.

The two waterways have been divorced ever since the flight of 11 locks linking them was filled in during the 1930s.

The wheel has been plonked down by British Waterways - looking for all the world like a giant infant's Lego toy - as part of an 84.5 million scheme to regenerate both canals.

The Union Canal has been extended, and Britain's first new canal tunnel in a century built to take it under the Glasgow-Edinburgh railway line and the Antonine Wall, a Roman earthwork.

The Queen tours and officially opens the site of the Falkirk Wheel lock in Scotland
The wheel is the world's only rotating boat lift
The canal marches boldly out from the hillside on a new aqueduct with the wheel bolted on the end, apparently defying gravity.

At either end of a giant spoke huge caissons of water take boats from the aqueduct above to the new basin below (once an open-cast coal mine), which in turn connects with the Forth and Clyde Canal.

In this depressed part of Scotland's central belt, badly hit by the decline of coal mining and traditional manufacturing, it's hoped the wheel will stimulate tourism and act as a landmark statement of self-confidence.

It's also the most spectacular single element in British Waterways' project to restore some 200 miles of canals at a cost of 500 million, much of it from the Lottery.

The Queen herself is not allowed on the wheel.

The police have vetoed a trip for "security reasons" - no doubt fearful of the consequences should the wheel stuck with the head of state stuck floating in a giant tin bath some 40 feet up in the air.

So she stands and looks politely up, clutching her hat in the stiff breeze, as the wheel slowly rotates for her and a cloud of purple and yellow balloons are released from the boat in the topmost caisson to drift away across the landscape.

Scottish nationalists

In the evening she hosts a reception at Holyrood House for several hundred high achieving Scots, including actors and sportsmen and women.

There is a whiff of controversy when it emerges that Alan Baxter, the bronze medallist at the Winter Olympics who was disqualified after failing a drugs test, is on the guest list.

But the Queen does not meet him.

The previous day an attempt by the Scottish Nationalists to make political capital out of the visit seemed to fall equally flat.

Winnie Ewing, the veteran nationalist member of the Scottish Parliament, has written to Holyrood suggesting the Queen should restyle herself "Elizabeth I, Queen of Scots" north of the border, since the first Elizabeth was queen only of England and the two crowns were united only under her successors.

The Scottish Labour Party has accused the SNP of engaging in "utterly pointless constitutional navel-gazing".

The palace has brushed aside journalistic inquiries by saying the letter hasn't arrived.

Saturday 25 May

Day three of the visit, and the crowds are still rather meagre, even in Edinburgh, as the Queen processes up the Royal Mile from Holyrood House to open the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on The Mound, just below Edinburgh Castle.

The palace has certainly pushed the boat out and the spectacle is undeniably impressive.

The Household Cavalry have come up from London especially, their breastplates burnished and glistening in the occasional drizzle.

The Scottish State Coach, with glass roof surmounted by a replica of the Scottish crown, has been dusted off for the occasion - one of 150 horse-drawn coaches and carriages the Queen can choose from.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh travel to the horse-drawn Scottish State Coach to the opening of the General
Assembly of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh
Crowds were greeted with an 'impressive' spectacle
A stretched limo arrives half an hour before the procession, bearing Scotland's heralds in their bright yellow tabards: Carrick Pursuivant, Rothesay Herald, Unicorn Pursuivant and their colleagues line up with the Hereditary Bearer of the Royal Banner of Scotland (the Earl of Dundee) and their boss, Lord Lyon King of Arms, to await Her Majesty.

When she arrives she sits patiently as a new moderator of the Kirk is installed and then rises to give an unexpectedly personal speech.

She thanks the people of Scotland for their support after the deaths of her mother and sister.

"I have been so touched by the kindness shown by so many of you," she says, her voice quivering slightly with emotion.

She speaks of the way the "straightforward practical Christianity" of the Kirk has influenced her own Christian beliefs.

And she reaffirms her "profound affection" for Scotland and the importance of the Scottish dimension to her life.

Then it's back to Holyrood to host a garden party for 8,000 people.


©Copyright 2002, BBC News

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