Nicola Sturgeon says Prince Philip was 'fiercely intelligent' as politicians pay tribute

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·5-min read

Watch: Nicola Sturgeon pays tribute to 'inspirational' Philip

Nicola Sturgeon has led tributes to the "fiercely intelligent" Prince Philip as politicians across the UK return to work early to pay their respects to the late Duke of Edinburgh.

Hours of tributes will take place in Holyrood, as the Scottish Parliament reconvenes, as well as in the Senedd under Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford and in London with Boris Johnson leading the messages.

Speaking in Edinburgh, the Scotland first minister sent "deepest sympathies" to the Queen on behalf of the Scottish Parliament.

Reflecting on her trips to Balmoral, she said: "I always enjoyed my conversations with the Duke of Edinburgh on these visits, and indeed on all of the occasions that I met him.

"He was a thoughtful man, deeply interesting and fiercely intelligent.

"He was also a serious bookworm, which I am too, so talking about the books we were reading was often for me a real highlight of our conversations."

She also said he and the Queen were a "true partnership". 

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 09:   First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on board the steam locomotive 'Union of South Africa' on the day she becomes Britain's longest reigning monarch on September 09, 2015 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Today, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest reigning monarch in British history overtaking her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria's record by one day. The Queen has reigned for a total of 63 years and 217 days. Accompanied by her husband and Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon she will officially open the new Scottish Border's Railway which runs from the capital to Tweedbank.  (Photo by Andrew Milligan - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The Queen with Prince Philip and Nicola Sturgeon on the steam locomotive Union of South Africa on the day she became the UK's longest-reigning monarch in 2015. (Andrew Milligan – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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Wales first minister Drakeford opened tributes in Cardiff on Monday morning.

He said: "The last 12 months have seen many families faced with the grief of losing someone they have loved.

"However it happens, each loss is uniquely felt by those for whom that person will leave a gap in their lives which no one else can fill.

"Our thoughts today are with those members of the wider Royal Family, who have to face that loss in the particularly distressing circumstances caused by the public health emergency."

In Northern Ireland, first minister Arlene Foster said Philip was a "true intergenerational legacy to our youth, our United Kingdom and the world’s environment".

She said: "The Duke of Edinburgh demonstrated the desire for a better future, and particularly so for our younger generation. So let us embrace his legacy to positive effect as we all go about the job of seeing Northern Ireland reaching its full potential in the new century ahead of us."

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In London, speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle opened the afternoon of remarks by saying: "He was without doubt the father of the nation, and will sorely be missed and impossible to replace."

Johnson said: "He was one of the first people in this country to use a mobile phone. In the 1970s he was driving an electric taxi on the streets of London, the forerunner of the modern, low-carbon fleet, and again a vehicle of his own specifications.

“He wasn’t content just to be a carriage driver, he played a large part in pioneering and codifying the sport of competitive carriage driving. And it is true that carriage driving is not a mass participation sport – not yet.”

He also addressed the so-called gaffes the duke became known for, as he said: "t is also true, Mr Speaker, that amongst his more Parliamentary expressions he commented adversely on the French concept of breakfast.

“He told a British student in Papua New Guinea that he was lucky not to be eaten, and the people of the Cayman islands that they were descended from pirates, and that he would like to go to Russia except that, as he put it, ‘the bastards murdered half my family’.

“But, Mr Speaker, the world did not hold it against him.

“On the contrary they overwhelmingly understood that he was trying to break the ice, to get things moving, to get people laughing, and to forget their nerves.”

File photo dated 26/11/03 of Queen Elizabeth II with the Duke of Edinburgh as she made the Queen's Speech, to members of the House of Lord and the House of Commons during the State Opening of Parliament in London. Philip succeeded at being a royal consort because he shared the Queen's dedication to duty without looking as though he was trying to be King, one royal writer suggested. Issue date: Friday April 4, 2021.
The Queen with the Duke of Edinburgh during the 2003 Queen's Speech to members of the House of Lord and the House of Commons during the State Opening of Parliament. (PA Images)

Conservative former prime minister Theresa May recalled one of her trips to Balmoral with her husband, particularly a walking route which Philip suggested to her.

She told MPs: "I remember my last stay at Balmoral – my husband and I, as everybody knows, enjoy walking and we were able to do some walks there and Prince Philip very kindly suggested a particular walk to us.

"So we were very grateful for this suggestion and we set off. When we got back to the castle several hours later, we were told that Prince Philip did indeed enjoy this walk but he normally drove round it in a car. I’m not sure if it was a test and if it was if we passed it.

"But I also remember on my last visit when I went to say my farewell and initially we couldn’t find Prince Philip, and eventually I caught up with him, he was watching the cricket.

"How I would have loved to have stayed watching the cricket with him."

The recall of the Scottish Parliament on 12 April was only the sixth in its history. It was previously recalled for the death of first minister Donald Dewar, the death of the Queen Mother, a ministerial statement on the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, and for a Brexit debate on 30 December last year. 

It was also recalled on 4 January this year to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic.

MPs were recalled to parliament early on 12 April for tributes which began at 2.30pm on Monday and could last until 10pm.

Watch: Prince Philip's funeral - the planned procession to St George's Chapel