Thursday, December 25, 2014 4:00 pm
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 towards 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.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the spiritual leader of the Anglican faith, was also meant to remember the 1914 truce in his Christmas sermon but was forced to cancel due to what a spokesman said was a “severe cold”.
– Ebola volunteers –
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.