A Great Day For Scotland

In a colorful ceremony melding populism with ancient tradition, Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday opened Scotland's first Parliament in nearly 300 years.

CBS News Correspondent Richard Roth reports that the idea was for a day blending pomp and populism, preserving the old while observing the new. The queen's carriage rolling along Edinburgh's cobbled streets while a supersonic Concorde soared by above.

This was Scotland turning a page of history: Opening a parliament of its own for the first time since 1707, when London took over its lawmaking powers, when the United Kingdom was becoming Great Britain.

"Today is a historic day for Scotland," the queen declared.

But it was also a day rich in symbols of the union that remains; the culture and the government and the crown that tie Scotland and England together.

Full independence is still a far-off goal of Scottish nationalists, though even the most famous of them was smiling today. Actor Sean Connery said this was better than the Academy Awards.

More than that, a Scottish politician said it was a celebration that deserved notice. It's the creation, he said, of a new voice for democracy.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labor Party, the largest group in the assembly, hopes the restoration of the Parliament will preserve the United Kingdom -- but in a new form, with power decentralized from the government in London.

Power devolved formally to the Parliament on Thursday, enabling it to raise taxes and legislate on a range of domestic functions, including education, health, legal affairs and local government.

England and Scotland have shared a monarch since 1603, a century before their 1707 union under a single Parliament in London.

©1999 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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