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Patrick Harvie: Every life lost deserves respect and most did not have the means of Prince Philip

JOCK Tamson’s Bairns may have become something of a cliche. But in one respect every human being is indeed equal; death comes to us all, and every family faces the pain of loss. No amount of wealth, privilege or status can protect us from mortality. So, regardless of our different views on an issue like the monarchy, respect and compassion are due in equal measure, to every one of us at such times.

That is why it is right that we all offer our condolences to Prince Philip’s family, his friends, and all of those who will miss him. Every one of us who has lost someone dear to us knows all too well the pain that comes with it.  

And this has been a year of such terrible loss for the world, including up to 150,000 Covid deaths in the UK alone, most of them announced without ceremony, as daily and anonymous statistics.

While the virus has taken its toll on people from all walks of life, the impact has been heaviest on those with poor housing, low incomes and genuinely tough frontline public service jobs. Many will have experienced a lifetime of economic marginalisation or poverty. But every one of their lives was just as valuable, and their loss will be just as painful for those that are grieving for them.

READ MORE: Patrick Harvie raises Prince Philip’s ‘extreme privilege’ in Holyrood tribute

But for an individual, a family or a society, death is also part of life’s cycle, bringing a changing of the generations. Those who come after will build on the legacy they have been left, but will also rethink, reinvent, and alter course. They still owe much to those who went before, who may have lived by different values.

Our society contains a wide range of views on the monarchy. We do not all think the same way, and It would be wrong to pretend that we did. It is no secret that the Scottish Greens wish for an elected head of state, and will never support the principle of hereditary power.

That is why my colleagues and I reflected carefully on how to take part in today’s parliamentary debate. We knew that it would be wrong and dishonest to give a performance of feelings not sincerely felt, but also that our absence would imply a personal disrespect to those who have lost someone important to them. 

After 99 years, Prince Philip lived through a lot of change and leaves a mixed legacy. There are many examples of his prejudices, which caused pain to others. These are being euphemistically referred to as “colourful moments” or “gaffes”. And we cannot allow them to be forgotten in time or normalised. But there are also multiple stories of his personal generosity and many years of work in promoting conservation and environmentalism at a point where few with his influence were doing so.

It is said that Prince Philip wished to modernise the royal family and help it to keep pace with the modern, democratic and diverse society it is supposed to serve. There is a wider debate about whether such an institution can, and whether it should retain its place or not. We will be passionate participants in that debate, but it is not one for today.

Today we extend our thoughts to Prince Philip’s family, and to all those who are grieving for their loved ones, but we do so in a spirit of respect for the equal value of every human life.

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