The Queen has urged Scotland’s MSPs to tackle climate change and “help create a better, healthier future” in a speech ahead of the Cop26 climate conference.
The Queen also reflected on the “deep and abiding affection” and happy memories she and the late Duke of Edinburgh shared of Scotland as she formally opened the new session of the Scottish parliament.
Accompanied by the Prince of Wales and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall – known as the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay in Scotland – the Queen told MSPs that as the country emerged from the “adverse and uncertain times” of the pandemic, there was an opportunity for “hope and optimism”.
She said: “Next month, I will be attending Cop26 events in Glasgow. The eyes of the world will be on the United Kingdom – and Scotland in particular – as leaders come together to address the challenges of climate change.
“There is a key role for the Scottish parliament, as with all parliaments, to help create a better, healthier future for us all, and to engage with the people they represent – especially our young people.”
Speaking at Holyrood for the first time since Prince Philip’s death, the Queen added: “Today is also a day when we can celebrate those who have made an extraordinary contribution to the lives of other people in Scotland, locally or nationally during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“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. As we have seen in recent times. We all know of the difficult circumstances that many people have encountered during the last 18 months. However, alongside this have been countless examples of resilience and goodwill.
“Following my grandson’s time as lord high commissioner, Prince William has told me many heartening stories that he heard first-hand of people and communities across Scotland uniting to protect and care for those who are isolated or vulnerable.”
The monarch, who has been on her annual break at Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, met party and parliamentary leaders in the garden lobby before the ceremony in the debating chamber.
Responding to the Queen’s speech, the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said Covid was the biggest crisis to confront the world since the second world war.
“It has caused pain and heartbreak, it has exposed and exacerbated the inequalities within our society. But it has also revealed humankind’s boundless capacity for inventiveness, solidarity and love,” she said.
“And for those of us in public service, it has reminded us that with collective political will, changes that we might previously have thought impossible or just too difficult can indeed be achieved.
“In the months ahead, we must take the same urgency and resolve with which we have confronted this pandemic and apply it to the hard work of recovery and renewal, to the task of building a fairer and greener future for this and the generations who come after us.”
Afterwards, the Queen, Charles and Camilla were due to meet Scots who have been recognised for their contribution to communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.