Queen says fixing division in Scotland to take time
Healing differences in Scotland after a divisive referendum that came close to splitting the United Kingdom this year will take time, Queen Elizabeth II said in her annual Christmas broadcast on Thursday.
In a speech dedicated to the theme of reconciliation, the queen also celebrated progress toward peace in Northern Ireland, after a broad deal was signed by rival parties this week.
The queen acknowledged differences of opinion in Scotland after a September vote in which 45 percent voted to become independent from the United Kingdom, while 55 percent voted to remain within it.
“In Scotland after the referendum many felt great disappointment while others felt great relief, and bridging these differences will take time,” 88-year-old queen said.
The monarch recalled a visit to Northern Ireland in June, when she was shown around a prison by a former Irish Republican Army commander in a visit in support of the region’s peace process.
“The benefits of reconciliation were clear to see when I visited Belfast,” the queen said in her speech.
“My visit to the Crumlin Road Gaol will remain vividly in my mind. What was once a prison during the Troubles is now a place of hope and fresh purpose; a reminder of what is possible when people reach out to one another.”
The queen spoke on the 100-year anniversary of a spontaneous truce between warring soldiers in opposite trenches in World War One, something she described as a “remarkable” event that showed peace was possible.
“Sometimes it seems that reconciliation stands little chance in the face of war and discord,” the queen said.
“But, as the Christmas truce a century ago reminds us, peace and goodwill have lasting power in the hearts of men and women.”
An annual event broadcast on BBC television and radio, the queen’s message is watched by millions of people in Britain and across the Commonwealth.
It is one of the few speeches that she writes herself, rather than with government ministers.
The queen paid tribute in her address to the medical staff and aid workers fighting the Ebola epidemic, which has killed more than 7,500 people, mostly in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.
“I have been deeply touched this year by the selflessness of aid workers and medical volunteers who have gone abroad to help victims of conflict or of diseases like Ebola, often at great personal risk,” the queen said.
People caring for the sick or handling the bodies of people infected with Ebola are especially exposed to the virus and 365 health care workers have died, most of them local staff.
A British health worker who survived Ebola delivered his own message to the nation after being chosen to give Channel 4’s “Alternative Christmas Message.”
William Pooley, a nurse who decided to return to Sierra Leone after receiving treatment in Britain, will call for greater global action against the virus.
“I don’t want to make you feel guilty but I would like you to think just for a few minutes about what you could do to help,” the 29-year-old said in a message filmed at Connaught Hospital in Freetown.
“This is a global problem and it will take the world to fix it. What a wonderful Christmas present that would be.”
For the past two decades, independent television station Channel 4 has selected a figure in the public eye to deliver an alternative message, which is broadcast after the queen.
US whistleblower Edward Snowden gave the message last year, and previous speakers included Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and French animal rights campaigner and actress Brigitte Bardot.