Holyrood leaders pay tribute to ‘extraordinary life’ of Duke of Edinburgh

Katrine Bussey and Craig Paton, PA Scotland Political Staff
·4-min read

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has led tributes at Holyrood to the Duke of Edinburgh following his “extraordinary life”.

Ms Sturgeon described Philip, who died on Friday, as being a “thoughtful man, deeply interesting and fiercely intelligent”.

She added that he was “also a serious bookworm”, saying that discussions with him about books were “often for me a real highlight of our conversations”.

The First Minister spoke out as Holyrood was recalled for the sixth time in its history to pay tribute to the Duke with a special motion of condolence.

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Political parties in Scotland suspended campaigning after his death and, on Monday, MSPs stood for a minute’s silence before party leaders paid their own tributes to him.

Serving in the Second World War he “endured difficulties and faced dangers that generations since can barely comprehend”, Ms Sturgeon said.

She added that after marrying the then Princess Elizabeth “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, who met the couple during annual stays at Balmoral as First Minister, added: “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.”

Speaking about his ties with Scotland, she said: “He was educated in Moray, taught to sail by a Scottish trawler skipper, and was based at Rosyth for two years during the war.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon led tributes to the Duke of Edinburgh at Holyrood. (Jane Barlow/PA)
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon led tributes to the Duke of Edinburgh at Holyrood. (Jane Barlow/PA)

Ms Sturgeon added: “It is right that our parliament pays tribute to him today.

“In doing so we mourn his passing and we extend our deepest sympathy to Her Majesty the Queen and his family. We reflect on his distinguished wartime record, his love and support for the Queen and his decades of public service to Scotland, the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

“Above all we celebrate and we honour an extraordinary life.”

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh came to Holyrood a number of times on official business (Michael Boyd/PA)
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh came to Holyrood a number of times on official business (Michael Boyd/PA)

Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader, Ruth Davidson, said most people would think of Philip as “an elderly man” who was ” gruff, witty [and] still able to stand ramrod straight”.

But she added he had been a “dashing young naval officer” who went on to become a “palace moderniser”.

Ms Davidson said: “He was a man that was born before the discovery of penicillin, before the creation of the United Nations or the invention of the television or the jet engine.

“But a moderniser he was in life, as well as in work. How many men in the 1950s gave up their job for their wife’s career?”

She also recalled how he had once asked former Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie about her underwear, at an event in Holyrood held to mark Pope Benedict’s visit to Scotland.

Ms Davidson said: “Seeing Iain Gray [former Scottish Labour leader] sporting a tie in the papal tartan, the Duke turned to Tory leader Annabel Goldie to ask if she had a pair of knickers made out of this.

“Quite properly, Annabel retorted, ‘I couldn’t possibly comment, and even if I did I couldn’t possibly exhibit them’.”

Ms Davidson praised the Duke for a “life of remarkable public service”, saying: “Anyone who in their life fought in World War Two; set up an organisation to help young people build resilience and change the course of their lives for the better; who helped found the world’s largest conservation charity to save endangered species; and who gave of his time to help 800 individual charities and who was still working well into his 90s, deserves to have that life recognised.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said he had never met Philip, whom he described as being “an extraordinary public servant, who dedicated his long life to our country”.

He praised him for “transforming lives for young people across the world, and promoting the issue of global conservation that we all now recognise is so important”.

Meanwhile, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie, said he did not agree with the characterisation of some that the Duke of Edinburgh was an “offensive man”, adding: “For so many, he has been part of a family that has provided comfort and stability in what can be a turbulent and intimidating world.”

Scottish Green Party co-leader, Patrick Harvie, a republican, said his party had “reflected carefully” on whether to take part in the motion of condolence.

Speaking at Holyrood, he said it would be “wrong to imply by our absence any kind of personal disrespect to those who have lost someone important to them”.

Mr Harvie added: “This has been a year of terrible loss for the world, including up to 150,000 Covid deaths across the UK, most of them announced without ceremony as daily statistics.”