The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge thanked frontline workers from the Scottish Ambulance Service for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic as they kicked off their country-wide tour.
William and Kate met the ambulance staff in Newbridge, near Edinburgh, during their first engagement after they set off on their 1,250-mile morale-boosting festive trip on the royal train.
It coincided with the announcement that the duke and duchess have become joint patrons of NHS Charities Together.
The 240 NHS charities in the UK provide extra funding and additional services above and beyond what the NHS core-funds, supporting hospitals, community and mental health services, and ambulance services.
Ian Lush, chairman of NHS Charities Together, said: “This is such an honour for our organisation and for all the NHS charities across the UK.
“The involvement of their Royal Highnesses will inspire the public to do even more to support the amazing NHS staff and volunteers who have done so much to keep us safe and well this year.
“We can’t wait to start working with the duke and duchess, the potential is so exciting.”
The Scottish Ambulance Service received funding from NHS Charities Together, which has been spent on indoor and outdoor wellbeing spaces for staff, as well as wellbeing packs with information booklets and reusable water bottles.
Kensington Palace said William and Kate’s visit on Monday had added poignancy as falls on the day the service remembers a colleague lost to Covid-19.
The Scottish Ambulance Service employs more than 5,000 people and provides an emergency ambulance service to a population of more than five million.
Earlier, the royal couple pulled into Edinburgh Waverley station to the sounds of a piper playing Christmas songs including Jingle Bells and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.
The duke was the first to step out of the Royal Claret-coloured carriages, adjusting his face mask as he did so, followed by Kate.
The duchess, in a Liberty print face covering, was dressed in a smart blue coat and black gloves, while William was wearing a navy coat and a tartan scarf.
They were welcomed to the city on the platform by Deputy Lord Lieutenant Sandra Cumming and chatted briefly, before then thanking the piper and leaving the station to make their way to their first engagement.
The couple travelled overnight after setting off on Sunday evening from London’s Euston station on the three-day tour, which will see them thank communities, outstanding individuals and key workers for their efforts during the coronavirus crisis.
Ahead of departure, they left a personal message of thanks for transport workers on a London Underground service information board.
Thank you to transport workers everywhere for keeping the country moving throughout this difficult year.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!
William & Catherine
— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) December 7, 2020
Kensington Palace shared images of the notice at Euston and of Kate writing the words and William signing it.
Their message read: “Thank you to all transport workers everywhere for keeping the country moving throughout this difficult year.
“Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!
The duke and duchess received a rock and roll send-off on Sunday when Shakin’ Stevens serenaded them with his hit Merry Christmas Everyone before they boarded the royal train.