This is the piece I had originally intended to publish on Monday morning as soon as it was safe to come out from under the duvet and switch on the telly without being assailed by an orgy of sycophantic and self-congratulatory British nationalism wrapped up in flags and obsequious BBC presenters cooing “Isn’t she maaaaaaaaarvellous!”
However as the saying in politics attributed to Prime Minister Harold Macmillan goes, “Events, dear boy, events.” The news on Monday was of course dominated by the announcement that the Prime Law breaker was to face a vote of no-confidence. This is the story which will dominate the political agenda for the rest of this week, and quite likely for some time to come. Johnson’s card is marked even though he squeaked through, much to the eternal shame of the 211 Conservative MPs who think it’s just fine that a liar and law-breaker occupies Downing Street. Mind you the two Scottish Tories who voted for him, Alister Jack and David Duguid have no shame, because if they did they’d have resigned long ago.
The fact that we are lumbered with this criminal enterprise that calls itself the governing political party of the UK and are stuck with it despite the fact that it has not won an election in Scotland since the 1950s. This alone is enough reason for Scottish independence.
That said, it is still important to talk about what lessons we can take from the recent British nationalist royalist sycophestival for the Scottish independence campaign. It is clear from the distinct lack of jubilee enthusiasm outwith Rangers pubs in the East End of Glasgow that Scotland is easily the least monarchist part of Britain. The jubilee was met in Scotland with a resounding “meh”. Even the BBC, which was doing its best to whip up interest and to shoehorn the jubilee into every unrelated TV show was forced to admit that the reaction to the jubilee in Scotland had been “more muted,” which is an interesting description of tumbleweed blowing across an empty street. We have seen this before in Scotland, such as with the general lack of enthusiasm in Scotland for previous big royal events like the desperately hyped weddings of Prince William and his brother. In general, people in Scotland have no great interest in the royal family. There were far fewer jubilee events in Scotland, and those which did take place attracted just a handful of attendees. The weather was beautiful and by and large Scotland had better things to do.
Much of this widespread disdain for the royals is due to the fact that the monarchy is not seen in Scotland as the uniting force that it is constantly portrayed as being by the British media. In Scotland the royals are very firmly associated with one side in Scotland’s constitutional debate and with supporters of a particular football team, flute bands, and the sectarian bigotry of the Orange Order. It is worth pointing out that no member of the royal family has ever disavowed the sectarian parades taking place in their name, ugly manifestations of intolerance which deface the streets of Scotland’s towns and cities every year. You don’t get to be a figurehead for sectarianism and at the same time tell us that you unify everyone in the UK. The Windsors’ tin ear is such that they even decided that at some point in the future they’re going to give us another King Billy.
While there may be in certain quarters a grudging respect to the queen herself due to her longevity, this does not extend to the other members of the family despite the carefully curated public image which is presented to us by a British media which does its utmost to cover up any criticism or scandal, and given the behaviour of the royal family that’s a full time job.
Like many of us who support Scottish independence I have no time at all for the Windsor clan. They epitomise everything that is wrong with the UK, with its lack of democracy and accountability, and its fetishisation of a romanticised image of a supposedly glorious past which in reality was cruel, rapacious and money grabbing. The Windsors sit at the pinnacle of the privilege and patronage which are at the centre of the the Westminster system and which fatally undermine democracy in the UK.
The campaign for Scottish independence is motivated in no small measure by the need to ensure that Scotland has a democratically accountable government which is answerable to the people of Scotland, that Scotland is a country where democracy is safe and secure, and by a desire to build a fair and just country which treats everyone equally and does not perpetuate privileges conferred by birth or title. The British monarchy as it is currently constituted is fundamentally incompatible with that goal.
Many independence supporters, myself included, make no secret of the fact that we would like to see the establishment of a Scottish republic. Getting rid of the monarch and the expensive aristocratic parasites who feed on the public purse would be one of the greatest opportunities offered by Scottish independence, we can be certain that it is not an option that would ever be offered to us by Westminster. There will be no substantive changes to the current monarchy under the Westminster system.
That said, it would be a mistake to link the fate of the monarchy to Scottish independence in a future independence referendum. We should not muddy the waters by making the vote in a second independence referendum simultaneously a vote on independence and a republic. The maxim K.I.S.S. is apposite here. Keep. It. Simple. Stupid. The question put before the people of Scotland at a future independence referendum should be about one question and one question only, should Scotland become an independent country. The question of independence is about whether Scotland wants to continue with the Union of Parliaments of 1707, the matter of the Union of Crowns of 1603 is an entirely different question, a question which should properly be answered by the people of Scotland once the issue of independence has been decided.
There are those in Scotland who feel that the monarchy is as much Scotland’s as it is England’s. Some of those may believe that an independent Scotland would be best served with a stripped down and strictly constitutional monarchy more along Scandinavian lines, they might be alienated from voting yes in an independence referendum if they thought that by voting for independence they were also voting to end Scotland’s 1200 year long history as a kingdom.
We need to keep the question facing Scotland in the next independence referendum simple, this will be a vote about independence. Once we have restored Scottish independence that will be the time to have a debate about how Scotland chooses its head of state. Then I personally will be advocating a republic but this is a decision for the citizens of an independent Scotland to take. We only damage our own cause if we alienate people who might potentially vote yes by bundling in other issues which are not about independence.
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