Vote! Monarchy or Republic?

It has begun.

The inexorable build-up to the Diamond Jubilee of our dear Majesty.

I caught the giddily gaudy and fawning advertisements on the BBC of all the goodies in store for us on 5th June for the first time last night.  Just as the Queen was hosting a posh dinner with monarchs from across the globe to celebrate her milestone.

The most exclusive lunch club in the world consisted mostly of constitutional monarchs, and a few embarrassing uncles.  If it wasn’t for Peter Tatchell making a fuss, I doubt if the UK news programmes would have noted any of this.  Apparently, Buckingham Palace draws up the guest list, the UK Government approves it, or otherwise.  It was plain sailing for the Kings of Bahrain and Swaziland, despite the former leading a regime accused of brutally suppressing opposition and the latter’s commitment to polygamy being much more tangible than addressing the absolute poverty which afflicts much of his population.

The BBC is supposed to be the state broadcaster and free from bias.  We’ve already had the documentary detailing the Queen’s life and service, as seen through the intimate eyes of her children and grandchildren.  A big strike for those in favour of maintaining a constitutional monarchy.

So where’s the equivalent documentary questioning the appropriateness of this arrangement in the 21st Century, querying the costs of all those stately piles, retainers and assorted family members?  Where is the televised debate between monarchists and republicans?  Surely, no moment in time is better to try and capture the nation’s view?

If it were down to broadcasters, they’d have us believe that everyone loves the Queen and everyone thinks she makes the ideal Head of State.  Even Prince Charles appears to be in a process of rehabilitation.  His wee tour of the Scottish provinces and that footage of him presenting the Scottish weather?  Didn’t it make you warm to him?  Good, job done then.

According to a poll for the Telegraph – the epitome of unbiased news gathering and reporting on such matters – we are all Royalists now.  Kate – their one, not this one – has had a big effect.  And there is no doubt she has been like a breath of fresh air with that wonderful smile, the clothes recycling and what is known in the parlance, as a common touch.  Much like her late mother-in-law before her then.

But it’s also down to the Diamond Jubilee.  Apparently, we are all “stirred with a sense of patriotism“.  Given that a very one-sided view of the Jubilee and its meaning for us as a democracy is being presented by all and sundry, it is little wonder that more of us think it is the only game in town.  We’re being presented with Hobson’s choice, of the Jubilee as a great big celebration denuded of its wider political and constitutional context.

Our First Minister and the SNP want it like this too.  They don’t want a stushie over the future role of the monarchy in independent Scotland to colour folk’s voting intentions in the referendum.  Despite the debate on whether or not to keep the monarchy or go republic after independence being one of the biggest, most passionately argued in the SNP in the last thirty years, even the compromise reached on that day – we keep the Queen for the time being and the Scots get to decide in a referendum – was too much for the leadership.

So, it was airbrushed away, tucked into the National Conversation document that formed the first basis for a referendum bill, with said document being passed at a National Council in October 2007.  And no doubt never mentioned in dispatches to the media nor to delegates that the White Paper contained an important reversal of current party policy.  People will have nodded it through not realising that that was what they were doing.  The Leadership might consider a job well done but it leaves me feeling somewhat queasy.

If we cannot be trusted to have a mature debate on the type of country we want to be, in terms of its constitutional framework, then what is the point?  If the only way to deal with difficult issues which would cause divide is to sneak them away under cover of thousands of words, then what does that say about our capacity as a country to stand on our own two feet and to accept responsibility for the big stuff in a grown-up way?

I used to think the monarchy v republic debate was flummery.  A distraction from the things that really matter.  But increasingly, I understand its relevance.  The kind of constitution we put in place for independent Scotland matters because it says a lot about the country we aspire to be.  Do we wish to continue with a society where it is acceptable for the accident of birth to result in some having inordinate access to power and privilege?  Or are we all equal, with all people in Scotland having the same rights and opportunities to succeed?

These are big important constructs and debates to have in the run-up to the independence referendum.  But they are just as relevant to the United Kingdom as it is now.  Why are we not being treated like grown-ups by being allowed to consider what the Jubilee means to who we are?  Why are we being told by the establishment that the monarchy is good for us and to celebrate it, with no opportunity given for dissent or even to make our own minds up?  Whether we want it or not, we are all being given a day off from school and work.

Instead, there will be street parties, pomp and circumstance, pop concerts, memorabilia and Union flags.  Everywhere.

In a country, where 250,000 children grow up in poverty and where nearly 1 million people live on low incomes, we are being encouraged to celebrate the glorious reign of a fabulously rich woman by spending money we don’t have on tat we don’t need and to rejoice for one single day in a sense of solidarity.   And to question it – any of it – is to invite contempt and opprobrium.

I’m not the only one to feel less than enthused here in Scotland.  A poll in December 2011 found that while 39% of Scots were proud when asked to think about the Olympics and the Jubilee, 34% were embarrassed and 25% neutral;  48% were excited, 35% bored and 16% neutral.

So, how about you?  Are you giddy with excitement, polishing your silver and preparing to hang out your bunting or preparing to head to the hills on 5 June?  Are you a monarchist who supports the concept of a Royal Head of State?  Or a republican who believes there is no role for the monarchy and would prefer an elected Head of State?

Here’s your chance to have your say.

23 thoughts on “Vote! Monarchy or Republic?

  1. Shhh, don’t scare the horses.

    There will be plenty of time for constitutional stushies after independence.

  2. I think the idea of voting for a republic or a monarchy will be best left till after independence,so as not to distract from the main objective,as this looks like a divisive tactic,again we are being screwed.

  3. I’d say this is not the time to start on the monarchy in view of the celebrations coming up. Yes there’s a debate to be had but I think slagging off the monarchy, if that’s how the debate is to go, isn’t much of a debate.

    If you call the BBC covering the Diamond Jubiliee “bias” then I think you are being downright silly. Lizzie, God bless her, has put her time in and I respect her. I also think she’s worked bloody hard in the past SIXTY, yes, SIXTY years and as the state broadcaster the BBC certainly should acknowledge that along with other broadcasters in Scotland, the UK, and indeed the world. I wish Lizzie all the best and I think she has served the people well during this time.

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  5. Whatever your views, would you have wanted a President Blair?

    • Either I still want or don’t want or is there too many wants wi the question?

    • Well yes Barb, exactly. No answers on this thread to the alternative proposed. President Blair, or President Salmond maybe? I despair sometimes. It will soon be an embarrassment (as far as some nationalists are concerned) to say your dad fought in WW2.

    • Why ask the same question its always “would you like a president Blair” why not Churchill,or Paddy McGinty’s goat? have you no imagination,what about president Charles Patrick O’Brien? or even (at a push) yourself?

    • I wouldn’t have wanted one, but I would like the opportunity not to vote for one. remind me exactly who voted for Mrs saxe-Coburg and her family to be head of our country?

  6. I’ve never subscribed to the SNP belief that the BBC is anti-SNP. But watching the suck up deference in the BBC Scotland studio to Prince Chuck reading the weather made me want to kick the television screen in.

    I think you’re right Kate. The idea of surrendering such an important principle in order to reach the goal of independence is anathema to what the SNP is meant to be about.

    Personally, I would put all the Royals and hangers-on on a bonfire and make sure that Prince Andrew was the first to be lit. (ceremoniously by proxy of course – effigies will do)

    Do you think Salmond being a Privy Coonsellor has anything to do wiith it? Or is it just to assuage the Monarchist element in Scotland?

    • Longshanker the Labour zealot and arch unionist ,come to do a sneaky one ?Is it jealousy with you about the First Minister? You always seem to be against whatever he is standing for like an independent country.

      • I’m afraid I don’t like your tone or your assertion – Labour zealot and arch unionist – indeed. How daur ye! Where do you get that from?

        The feeling I’m getting from Kate is that the possible sell out or airbrushing of key manifesto pledges and principles by the SNP leadership is a worrying change in direction and principle for the grassroots of the party to deal with.

        This idea of realpolitik put forward here, or doing what it takes for independence, undermines the reasons many people supported the SNP in the first place.

        Potential sell outs like that reek of Blairism and it aint pleasant to behold.

  7. Good article. Not enough people recognise that this debate is essential to our future. Redistribution of wealth is the key to resolving the current crisis and ensuring it does not reoccur. The monarchy is the most prominent symbol justifying the continuation of a system in which inherited wealth and power prevents real democracy in our society.

  8. Hasn’t anyone here heard of realpolitik? Sadly there still many people even in Scotland who like the Monarchy and indeed think the London Olympics is great for Scotland. So we should avoid ‘frightening the horses’. The way to solve all this stuff Monarchy, Nato etc is to have the balls to say here is a guaranteed written Constitution and stuff like this will be decided by the people by referendum after independence! The BritNats will never support a written Constitution and it will destroy the myth that an independent Scotland will be a one party state!

  9. One BBC news report the other night did indicate that around 30% of the population don’t support the monarchy. But it wasn’t presented as an alternative point of view; rather that there are some odd folk around who just can’t see what’s good for them.

  10. I’m an SNP member and will support them through thick and thin, they have stood up for Scotland for so many years when so many Scots didn’t stick up for them. Now they have a massive task and will do anything to win this referendum. If that means surrendering our principles for a few years, so be it. Independence is the major issue, once we have that we can talk about things like constitution. We need to rule ourselves first before we can even make decisions about these things, why talk about them now when we can do nothing about it? The SNP stand for the people of Scotland, give them a chance to deliver independence first, we can’t rush into these things. Alba gu Brath.

  11. Must be a republic I cant understand why some people think that others are better than themselves because of which bed they happen to get born in?
    I also believe that soon after independence we will get to vote on a republic,or stagnation.

  12. I hold a Queen’s Commission – I would prefer a Republic. The only way to serve my country is to accept the Queen’s Shilling – but not for much longer, roll on 2014 & beyond, time to look to the future & our true needs, not The City of London, Westminster or Britain.

    DM

  13. I have to say that any time this has come up on Better Nation towers, the amount of SNP supporting people prepared to defend the status quo is quite staggering. Like you, i would like rid of the living embodiment of privilige and patronage. Prehaps far too many of the Scottish Government have gotten used to the smell of drying paint.

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