The monarchy debate is an opportunity not a threat

No longer are we bored united. The heatwave seems to have sparked life into the constitutional debate, with folk prepared to discuss some of the meat and bones of what independence might mean.

While a discourse on whether an independent Scotland should keep the monarchy is not quite an everyday issue for voters, it’s tangible enough for folk to take an interest. Especially when there is now a guaranteed lineage well into the next century.

The arrival of the newest member of the Firm reminds us all that this is a dynasty with longevity: some will be content with this state of affairs, but many others, who don’t ordinarily make the link between the Royal Family and its constitutional role, will have paused to digest this. This is exactly the purpose of a debate on our future – it creates a space for a blether about big things and wee, and gets us thinking about who we are and what sort of country we’d like to be.

Has the arrival of the new royal baby signalled a similar debate down south? Not if the media can help it. There was a great piece in yesterday’s Sunday Herald on how broadcast media, in particular, colluded in the construction of a narrative around the birth of Prince George which bore little resemblance to reality. The Scottish media might have mixed motives in encouraging such a debate within the context of the independence referendum, but let’s at least credit them with doing us a service. Different opinions have been invited, encouraged and given a place.

Indeed, the opportunity to let opinion flourish is exactly the point of Yes Scotland. Even if it doesn’t seem to think so. Its somewhat sniffy response to Dennis Canavan’s views on the monarchy missed the point completely. Its role is not to repeat or create a policy position but to welcome the debate itself.

Yes Scotland should have been much more effusive and enthusiastic in welcoming its Chairman’s comments – and encouraged him to speak in that capacity. It should have marked out the difference between here and there. “Isn’t it great that the referendum offers us the opportunity to discuss these weighty matters? Isn’t it good that we are all getting the chance to think about what kind of country we want to be? That’s what independence offers – the right and responsibility to consider and choose how we want to be governed. With the monarchy, that might involve a referendum at some point but that would be your decision – Scotland’s decision – to take. Polls suggest we’d opt to keep the Queen or King as our head of state, but at the moment, we don’t get to say how we run our affairs. That’s what independence offers. Isn’t it exciting?”

And it is exciting. Indeed, the response of Better Together implies just how so. Its dead hand attempt to dismiss Dennis Canavan’s views suggests it sees such opportunities as threats. Because the last thing the proponents of the status quo want is for people to start questioning the central thrust of its argument, especially within its own camp. For there are many, particularly from Labour ranks, who share his views: a debate on issues which highlights what independence offers is clearly a dangerous thing.

The concern is that the yes camp doesn’t seem to know how to seize such moments. Where’s the Yes Scotland online blog on this topic, with a range of views represented? Where’s the threading of a narrative combining the monarchy issue with other topical news items?

In the week that the hereditary right to rule was reinforced – a concept that rubs against the idea that we are all Jock Tamson’s bairns – we also learned that some of the richest landowners in Scotland whose position is maintained partly through significant public subsidy, also have the right to keep that information from us. Not only is it wrong that they as individuals, and not their businesses, benefit from taxpayers’ money, but worse, we, the body bountiful, don’t even get to know whom our largesse benefits.

This is the Scotland we currently live in, where a tiny percentage of very wealthy people get to preserve their status on account of who they are and to whom they were born. I know few Scots who are comfortable with this state of affairs and most would opt for a different set-up. The opportunity to change who owns Scotland, how Scotland is owned and who benefits materially from our rich resource base is fundamental to the concept of independence.

That’s the logic which underpins the idea of an oil fund for future generations. And it is implicit in Yes Scotland’s thumbnails on why people should vote yes and in all its literature. But it’s all too subtle and needs to be stitched together in much more emphatic fashion, with a range of voices encouraged, fostered and welcomed.

The point is that with independence, there is no official line, no single policy direction, but a range of choices available to Scotland to take. And therein lies the rub. Not only do we need to convince ourselves that we have the confidence and capability as a country to take the opportunities independence offers, but we need a campaign exhibiting the same qualities to get us there.


12 thoughts on “The monarchy debate is an opportunity not a threat

  1. the more I think about your comment Allan the angrier I get
    “we will have a surly neighbour to the south ”
    you seem to be saying,
    better to stay in an abusive relationship for fear they get you number and makes abusive phone calls.
    seriously Allan listen to yourself, do you how craven that comment actually was?

  2. First you say “tied to the EU at birth” then you say, “we wont be in the EU” just who are you Allan ,flipper Darling?

  3. @Peter A Bell
    Jesus you are such a clever one aren’t you Peter, you always pick things to the bone then come up with the wisest of replies, & of course you are so correct in your reply, that the referendum should NOT be about the monarchy, we can deal with that one AFTER we have our say on a yes vote for Independence.

    I enjoy Burdzeye’s posts though. Always have Always Will. 🙂

  4. It is absolutely central to the normalisation of Independence in people’s minds that such issues are debated as widely as possible. It is the only way they will begin to understand what Independence really means – having the opportunity to debate and decide what is best for ourselves.

    Shutting down debate on the monarchy, Europe, currency, taxation and welfare is absolutely counter-productive in my view. How does this help people understand that Independence is going to give us more control over our affairs?

    Let the debate rage. Get everyone involved. Then let Better Together explain that if we vote No, we don’t get a say on these matters.

    Personally, I think the monarchy is an anachronism but it is hardly the most pressing issue.

    I’d rather be seeing a proper debate about Europe and whether the EU is really something we should be part of – especially if it is going to throw out the public health measures that our democratically elected government has a mandate for in favour of the commercial interests of a select few corporations.

    I’d rather be seeing an imaginative debate about currency. What about a pan-nordic Crown covering a new Scotland and Scandanavia, for example? With the divergent strengths and vast energy reserves available to these economies it could easily become the world’s reserve currency of choice in time. And far easier to manage (compared to a Sterling or Euro zone) with four or five economies of comparable size and with broadly similar social objectives.

    I’d rather see a debate about taxation that encourages indigenous industry to grow through tax breaks for domiciled business owners as compared to multi-nationals. I’d like to see corporation tax related to revenue generated in country rather than just through profits declared in country.

    I’d rather see a debate on welfare whose objective is to deliver social justice rather than ensuring operational compatibility with the rest of the UK.

    Why are we not explaining just how differently we could do things if WE decide? Our society and economy needs fixing so doing the same things in a different package is not going to cut it.

    If we don’t start discussing these issues before the Referendum then nobody is going to be enthused about the possibilities it offers.

    We’ve got to hope the long-awaited white paper provides some substance to get excited about but, on the basis of the material that has been coming out recently, my own hopes aren’t high.

    • I totally refute the suggestion that anybody is “shutting down debate on the monarchy”.How would that even be possible?

      All some of us are doing is reminding people that the referendum is not about the monarchy. Or currency. Or anything other than Scotland’s constitutional status. The anti-independence campaign try hard to muddy the waters by portraying the referendum as being about everything from Alex Salmond to membership of Nato. It is about none of these things.

      The referendum is not about what is decided for Scotland, it is about who makes the decisions. Project Fear would doubtless be delight if we allowed the debate to descend into squabbling about the details of what happens after independence to the extent that we lose sight of what is important. Securing a Yes vote!

      • To, sort of, agree with Peter A Bell. Politics, in a meaningful sense, starts with independence. What the Better Together campaign are attempting to do is tie our hands as to our future decisions.

        Why would anyone countenance that?

        I have no idea whether we would be a monarchy or a republic. It would be up to the people of Scotland to decide and I for one could easily abide by either decision. But we certainly won’t get asked, or it will be a matter of so little concern that the question will never be put, if we stick with the status quo.

        There is a minor problem here though.

        It seems to me that the prospectus for independence must include a, preferably crowd sourced, constitution. That, and only that, should underpin ones decision to vote yes or no. To clarify a little, it seems to me that a lot of the arguement of the No campaign is based on the ludicrous assertion that we would be electing Alex Salmond as some sort of dictator for life. We need a constitution to explain to folk that that is not what will happen, that there will be elections in an independent Scotland and all the flowers will bloom.

        Hopefully the White Paper will address that issue.

  5. It is not Yes Scotland that has “missed the point completely”. It is the author of this article. Yes Scotland is concerned solely with the referendum that will be held on Thursday 18 September 2014. That referendum is to decide whether or not Scotland should be an independent country. It is NOT a referendum on the monarchy. It CANNOT be a referendum on the monarchy.

    It is indeed a healthy thing that matters such as the monarchy should be up for discussion. But it is simply wrong-headed to expect that the Yes campaign should engage with that debate to any extent greater than recognising that independence will give the people of Scotland the opportunity to decide for themselves how the head of state should be appointed. But the current and pressing debate is on the question of whether or not the people of Scotland are ready and willing to bring their government home. Nothing else!

    Acknowledging that the monarchy will remain after independence is NOT repeating the policy position of the Scottish Government other than in the trivial sense that both positions acknowledge that this is how it must be. Independence Day plus one MUST be indistinguishable from Independence Day minus one for the glaringly obvious reason that NOBODY has a mandate to make it otherwise. And NOBODY will gain such a mandate as a result of the referendum.

    By all means, discuss the monarchy, currency, EU, Nato and all the rest. But realise that this such discussion is quite separate from the debate on Scotland’s constitutional status. Discussion of these side issues, important as they may be, will only become relevant in the event of a Yes vote.

    • Ah, but in the same way that Scotland cannot possibly be an independent country tied to the EU at birth, Scotland cannot possibly be an independent country while tied to so much of the Brittish establishment.

      Oh, and the position that Independence Day plus one must be indistinguishable from Independence Day minus one is foolhardy at best. While it is likely that we will have Brenda as some sort of figurehead on Independence Day +1(if Scotland votes “Yes”), we won’t be in the EU, we will have a surly neighbour to the south of us & we will have to have various institutions up and running with the money to pay for it all.

      • Not sure I’m getting your point here Allan?
        Is Australia any less independent as it has the Queen as its head of state? is New Zealand? is Canada?
        we wont be in the EU? not keeping up with events are you Allan? a surly neighbour? and the advantage to the rUK of going into a perpetual sulk would be what exactly?
        I think you need to stop reading those swivel eyed newspapers like the Scotsman its affecting you reasoning, we will have to have various institutions up and running? what you mean the institutions we already pay our share of such as the foregn office the home office the inland revenue, those institutions for which we pay but as almost exclusively based in london , we GAIN A nothing from, can you imagine the increase in jobs and therefore taxable income for the Scottish government if all the bodies (we pay for) are actually based IN Scotland, a Scottish Army actually based in Scotland, a Scottish Navy all based here not in Aldershot , or Devonport, all of whom are paying taxes into the local economy, this is a bad thing Allan?

      • That was all a bit silly.

      • Peter, Peter, Peter… you’re not really getting this are you?

        It is imperitive of “Yes Scotland” to make a case for Independence that will attract votes that will change Scotland’s current default position of being pro-Union. So far they have not. Both Yes Scotland & the SNP’s continued wasting of open goals will come back to haunt them and us, probably when Cameron goes to “kiss hands” at the start of his second term.

        The SNP’s position regarding Brenda & the Firm seriously undermines their arguments regarding Independence and “bringing power home”. Is it any wonder the polls still show that there will be a “No” vote next year!

      • Yes Scotland, and the diverse groups operating under that umbrella, are doing an excellent job of making the case for independence. What Yes Scotland is not doing is prescribing a particular vision for Scotland after independence. The reasons for this SHOULD be obvious. For a start, Yes Scotland is NOT a political party. It does not have policies. More importantly, the role of Yes Scotland is to convey the promise and potential of independence for ALL the people of Scotland, not merely those who have a particular view on, for example, the question of the monarchy.

        It is not for Yes Scotland to try to sell the idea of a Scottish republic. That task falls to others within the wider civic nationalist movement. What Yes Scotland has to do is persuade people that it is better that decisions on such matters be made in Scotland.

        Yes Scotland is solely about bringing our government home. The rest is up to us.

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