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The Monarchy and Scotland

Whatever your position on the Royal Family may be, the passing of Queen Elizabeth II serves as a reminder to all of us of the fleeting nature of life and the immediacy of mortality. It binds us closer to our loved ones. The procession of the Queen’s body through these green lands has further highlighted the central part contemporary Scotland plays in the United Kingdom. Her affinity for Balmoral and the surrounding locality, where she spent two months of every summer and much of her childhood, further serves as a reminder of this phenomenon. However, with the ascension of a new monarch, the continuation of this affinity has come to a crossroads.  

Symbolically, this tragedy hints at a more united, United Kingdom than may be portrayed by some politicians. Throughout the reign of HRH Elizabeth II, the direct political importance of the royal family has dwindled. So their power became the passive symbolism of the institution, which subliminally acted upon the minds of active decision-makers in parliament. Such examples include the favouritism shown by Buckingham Palace to Sir Alec Douglas-Home during his contested appointment as Prime Minister in 1963. Then also, in 1992, the banal insistence of then Chancellor Norman Lamont that all future currency of the United Kingdom would have the sovereign’s head inscribed upon it, following tense Black Wednesday talks with European finance ministers.

It is worth remembering that arguments for Scottish Independence are oft put as symbolic and cultural, rather than strictly economic. An ostensibly autonomous Scotland is said to feel snubbed and left out by a self-absorbed Westminster. However, have recent events not highlighted the cultural importance of Scotland, above and beyond that of even the north and middle of England as the Queen’s body bypasses keen mourners in these areas as it is flown from Edinburgh to London? So with semi-autonomous parliament (honoured in The Scotland Act of 1998) and clear regal favouritism, aren’t the Scots obtaining the best of an anachronistic constitutional bargain?

When considering the economic situation, there certainly suggests a preference for those north of the border. Tax has often been a factor in creating problematic situations leading to revolutionary pro-independence movements. Interestingly, in this case, a larger amount of the coffers are spent on each Scottish citizen than on their English friends. That amount is more than they are taxed. 

A certain degree of clairvoyance is necessary to predict whether this uniquely preferable situation for Scotland is set to continue as the crown changes hands and His Majesty’s first government is ushered in with a new leader. King Charles certainly won’t immediately share the popularity of his late mother, with his favoured residence conversely lying at Restoral Manor in the south of England, a significant Range Rover ride away from Balmoral. However, he could learn from his relative Queen Victoria who was adroit at adopting national identities to please subjects. Only time will tell how this relationship will play out, but as we have seen, upsetting the status quo is not something the contemporary royal family are eager to do. 

So while Liz Truss vows to pay little attention to Scotland, it could be wise for them to continue to utilise their favourable royal and fiscal position. If and when it happens, the symbolism of these events could lead towards the no rather than the yes vote at the next Scottish independence referendum.

Image ‘UK Armed Forces Day National Event, Edinburgh, Scotland’ by Defence Images is licenced under CC BY-NC 2.0.