Continuity and change: the culture of ritual and procession in the parliaments of Scotland



Mann A (2009) Continuity and change: the culture of ritual and procession in the parliaments of Scotland. Parliaments, Estates and Representation, 29 (1), pp. 143-158.

Since Tony Blair came to power in the United Kingdom in his landslide victory of 1997, and with an election promise to create a devolved parliament in Edinburgh, a debate began about how this new legislature should carry out its business in relation to Westminster and other European parliaments of like size and like authority. Traditionalists have argued for a strong link with the old Parliament while modernists have emphasised the absurdity of such earnestness at the turn of the millennium. Ritual is an important battleground for this debate and the state openings of the new Parliament offer an opportunity to balance traditionalism against modernity. In the modern age of course these registers must be carried out before wide media scrutiny that sometimes limits and sometimes expands ceremonial ambition. This article examines the continuities and changes between the rituals evident in the old pre-1707 Scottish Parliament and the new Parliament established from 1999. Some research has been carried out on the contrasting formalities of the old and new parliaments in the context of 1999. However, since then other state openings in 2003 and 2007 along with the opening of the new Holyrood Parliament building in 2004, have provided additional opportunities for ritual to be expressed and modified. Therefore over a period of less than ten years Scotland's Parliament, people and media have had to wrestle with how it should present to the world the image of its legislature. By 2007 the diverse demands of community participation and state occasion have caused the members of parliament, the royal household and civil servants to re-shape the opening ceremony and its processional 'riding of parliament'. It is not clear if a new tradition has been firmly established and Scotland's Parliament may once again have cause to look back to the future.

Parliament; Scotland; Ritual; Procession; Early Modern; Medieval; Union; Devolution; Scotland. Parliament History; Scotland. Parliament; Ritual; Rites and ceremonies Scotland History; Rites and ceremonies Scotland

Parliaments, Estates and Representation: Volume 29, Issue 1

Publication date31/12/2009
PublisherTaylor & Francis (Routledge) / International Commission for the History of Representative and Parliamentary Institutions (previously published by Ashgate Publishing)

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Dr Alastair Mann
Dr Alastair Mann

Senior Lecturer, History