Queen's 'keep calm and carry on' message

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Media captionThe Queen urged calm in an "increasingly challenging world"

If you are the first minister, you can make your point directly. And so Nicola Sturgeon concluded her remarks at Holyrood today by urging MSPs and Scotland more generally "to play our part in a stronger Europe and a better world."

If you are the presiding officer, you can say what you mean to say, without challenge. And so Ken Macintosh, in a notably well-structured speech, urged optimism in these troubled and uncertain times.

However, if you are Her Majesty the Queen, you have to be more circumspect. The palace reacted furiously when one newspaper purported to know the views of the monarch upon the EU referendum question.

Further, although she is the sovereign, she operates within a careful power balance in which she is not supposed to interfere in decisions taken by elected representatives.

Did she interfere today? She did not. Did she, however, contrive to convey an overview upon the events of the past week? She did, albeit in the context of urging calm, cool heads.

Today Her Majesty was formally opening the fifth session of Scotland's parliament. Her remarks, therefore, were aimed directly at MSPs. She was wishing them good speed in their governance and legislation.

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Image caption The Crown of Scotland was carried into the Scottish Parliament ahead of the opening ceremony

Strictly, the following words were a reflection upon seventeen years of devolved power; years in which there have been many changes.

The Queen said the following: "Of course, we all live and work in an increasingly complex and demanding world, where events and developments can, and do, take place at remarkable speed; and retaining the ability to stay calm and collected can at times be hard.

"As this parliament has successfully demonstrated over the years, one hallmark of leadership in such a fast-moving world is allowing sufficient room for quiet thinking and contemplation, which can in turn enable deeper, cooler consideration of how challenges and opportunities can be best addressed."

Wider use

Do you think that was aimed solely at Holyrood? Of course not. It was a "Keep Calm and Carry On" message, aimed at the wider body politic, at those in Holyrood, Westminster and elsewhere who now have to cope with the impact of the vote to leave the EU. For good or ill.

Today, of course, was also about projecting a sense of continuity in this disturbing, destabilising period. The familiar fanfare, the comforting ceremonial. The Scottish crown, redolent of ancient regal authority. The mace, symbol of parliamentary power.

Inscribed on the mace are the following words: wisdom, justice, compassion, integrity. Those are supposed to be the elementary principles of Scottish devolved democracy.

As with the Queen's remarks, they are values which might well be of wider use at the moment.

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