When the Queen had her 70th jubilee in June I was surprised to discover the number of Union Flags that were displayed across Scotland. The SNP had done its best to erase the flag from public life and its supporters frequently described it in the most insulting ways possible. But the jubilee was genuinely popular here. The Queen was clearly much loved in Scotland.
I was even more surprised to see pavements packed with people seeking a last glimpse of the Queen’s coffin. The scale was quite unexpected.
Everything I knew about Scotland told me that support for the monarchy was at best muted among independence supporters. But now the same people who have been telling me for years that they want Scotland to leave the United Kingdom and become a republic are telling me that the SNP wants to retain the monarchy and loves the King.
It is crucial to remember always that the SNP is a single-issue party. It wants to achieve Scottish independence. If that requires it to adopt Labour policies it will do so to attract former Labour voters. It will be Pro EU if it thinks that it will win votes now, even though the SNP campaigned against staying in the EC in 1975.
The problem the SNP has is that most Scots hold rather contradictory views. We think that Scotland already is a country just like France with all the attributes of independence. But we also love and want to retain the rights and advantages of our shared citizenship in the UK. If we were to lose any of these, we would think twice about going it alone.
It is for this reason that the SNP campaigned in 2014 for what might be called independence in the UK rather than its more well-known slogan independence in Europe. Alex Salmond hoped to persuade Scots that we would barely notice Scottish independence. We would keep the pound, we would keep the monarchy, there would be open borders and we’d have exactly the same rights to live and work in the former UK as we do now. We’d watch the same TV. We’d be best friends with the English. If he could have got away with it, Salmond would have told us that the Barnett formula would continue also.
Scottish nationalism unlike most independence movements has always been a minority pursuit. The SNP’s task has been to persuade Scots who mostly like living in the UK to leave it. The debate is therefore largely dishonest.
Most SNP politicians are republicans. Most think of themselves as exclusively Scottish, but they are willing to pretend even to feeling British if it gets just one more Scot with a conflicted identity to cross over to their side.
For this reason, Scottish nationalists pretend that Charles III is King of Scotland and therefore upon independence he will continue to be King of Scotland. We will go back to how it was between 1603 and 1707 when James VI of Scotland became James I of England.
But this is the big lie at the heart of Scottish nationalism. Both Scotland and England were already on their last legs in 1603 when they gained the same king. At this time the country and the king were more or less the same thing.
If Scotland in the century between the James VI and I and Queen Anne had found another king then Scotland might have resumed its independence. Failure to do so guaranteed the two kingdoms becoming one.
There is no kingdom of Scotland today. The last Scottish monarch was Anne. There is no kingdom of England either. The last English monarch was Anne also. This is so basic that I am astonished that I have to point it out to Scottish nationalists. But I do.
In 1707 Anne became the Queen of Great Britain. It is for this reason people who live in her kingdom became British. A century later the Kingdom of Great Britain merged with the Kingdom of Ireland to form the United Kingdom.
Charles III is king of the United Kingdom. There is no kingdom of Scotland for him to be king of, because Scotland is not a sovereign nation state and the kingdom of Scotland ceased to exist in 1707.
We continued to refer to Scotland as a country, but it lost all of the typical attributes of a country in 1707 precisely because it ceased to have a King of Scotland.
It is for this reason that it is incoherent for the SNP to claim to be monarchists. It is of course perfectly possible for Charles III to be head of state of places like Canada and New Zealand while also being King of the United Kingdom. But he cannot become King of Scotland and remain King of the United Kingdom. The reason for this is that if Scotland became independent there would no longer be a United Kingdom for him to be king of.
If Alex Salmond had won in 2014 Elizabeth II would have ceased to be Queen of Great Britain, because Scotland would have left. She had never been Queen of Scotland. She might or might not have chosen to become that, but like everything else the SNP promised in 2014 it was not in Alex Salmond’s gift. Whether Scotland continued to share a monarch with the former UK would be up to the monarch and Parliament, not the SNP.
The contradiction in the SNP’s supposed monarchism can be illustrated best by its basing Scotland’s supposed right to independence on The Claim of Right 1689. People who have never read this document want to base all sorts of dubious claims about it. In fact, it is one of the foundation documents of the UK.
In the Glorious Revolution of 1688, James II King of England was kicked out and replaced by William III and Mary. But Scotland had a problem. It needed to kick out James VII King of Scotland and it wanted to imitate the English Bill of Rights 1688. The Claim of Right did the job.
The Claim of Right is primarily an anti-Catholic document, accusing James VII of being a papist who used Jesuits to seduce Scots away from their protestant faith. It therefore says
The said Estates of the Kingdome of Scotland Doe resolve that William and Mary King and Queen of England France and Ireland Be and be Declared King and Queen of Scotland.
This is the purpose of the document.
There are some important statements similar to the Bill of Rights in England that limit the power of the monarchy. This was the moment when we moved away from the Jacobite concept of the divine right of kings to a modern constitutional monarchy.
But it is crucial to realise that neither England nor Scotland in 1689 were democracies. The rights that these important documents gave us, most certainly did not involve the right to break up a kingdom nor to political independence. The vast majority of Scots in 1689 did not have the vote at all, let alone the right to vote for independence.
An 18th century Alex Salmond would have been hung drawn and quartered and it would have done him no good whatsoever if he had appealed to the Claim of Right.
It’s rather amusing to read a document which Scottish nationalists use as the basis for their whole case. They have obviously never read it. If it had not been for the Claim of Right it is likely that Scotland would have remained a separate kingdom. If we had chosen contrary to the English to retain James VII rather than adopt the English King and Queen there would never have been the Act of Union of 1707.
It is still more amusing still to reflect that the green side of the Central Belt bases its claim to Scottish independence on one of the most virulently anti-Catholic documents you could possibly read. You cannot both celebrate the Jacobites and the Claim of Right. It shows you understand neither.
Charles III and the monarchy is inherently opposed to the secession of Scotland. You cannot possibly support the King and want his kingdom to be broken up. The idea that the King would reward such disloyalty by becoming the king of Scotland is preposterous.
We know that the SNP is crossing its fingers when it claims to have loved Queen Elizabeth II. One of the first acts of an independent Scotland’s Government would be to ditch Charles III if he was foolish enough to accept its offer.
The existence of our monarchy is grounded in us having one king who is sovereign over the whole of his realm. To suppose that you can support the monarchy while campaigning for Scottish independence is to misunderstand our history and our country. It is not merely dishonest it is deceiving yourself.