IndyRef2: Question of 'when' and 'not if' says SNP's Alyn Smith
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Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has renewed her bid for a second independence referendum after a majority of separatist MSPs were elected to Holyrood last month. The SNP (Scottish National Party) has backed its leader, Ms Sturgeon, and her promise to deliver Indyref2 once the pandemic has subsided. However, unionists fear that the SNP’s blueprint for how an independent Scotland would operate fails to take in several key concerns, such as what currency it would adopt — and whether it would keep hold of the monarchy.
The fury unleashed among nationalists after Prince William’s unpublicised meeting with prominent unionist campaigner and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown last month hints at a sense of intolerance growing in some corners of the independence movement.
However, a Kensington Palace spokesman defended the move, and said: “During his time in Scotland Prince William has spoken to a broad range of people from different communities, including politicians from across the political spectrum.”
Even so, comments from a veteran SNP politician suggest that the party intends to launch a debate on the monarchy once the Queen’s reign has drawn to an end.
Speaking to columnist Euan McColm, they said: “Nobody at the top of the party is going to agitate to get rid of the Queen.
“But if someone else is in charge, there may be a debate to be had in an independent Scotland.”
Mr McColm then speculated how much support this movement would really have, and noted: “The Queen, if not every member of her family, retains the respect of most Scots.
“Crowds may be depended upon to appear whenever she is north of the border.”
The Queen has been particularly vocal about her love of Scotland for the majority of her reign, and even described her “great affection” for the country back in 2019.
However, the heir apparent Charles is significantly lower than his mother in the national popularity polls, with just 40 percent of Britons having a positive opinion of him compared to the 69 percent who support the Queen.
Writing in UnHerd, Mr McColm also pointed out that there is “strong vein of republicanism running through Scottish political life”.
He claimed that the republican debate is only kept under wraps due to the “caution of mainstream political leaders”.
According to the columnist, the SNP made independence seem more palatable and less radical by promising to hold onto the monarchy when it came to power in the Noughties — but, he warned that as republican sentiment grows among the Scots, there is likely to be “a ticking time bomb”.
William’s recent conversation with Mr Brown also builds on the nationalist discontent triggered by the Queen during the independence referendum in 2014.
She told Scottish well-wishers to “think very carefully about the future” shortly before they were set to hit the ballot box.
Then-Prime Minister David Cameron also revealed that the monarch “purred” down the phone when he told her Scotland voted to remain in the Union, even though the royals are expected to remain completely apolitical.
The unionist campaign has expressed its concern in recent years that, unless it takes swift action, the republican cause will gain traction amid the independence movement.
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Lord Edward Garnier, former Conservative frontbencher, warned last year: “Will the minister agree that if we don’t make an effort Scotland will become a republic separated from the United Kingdom?
“Are not the unionists from every part of the United Kingdom letter Ms Sturgeon — or Glasgow’s De Valera — hold the hold because they fear confusing English nationalism with patriotic unionism and are thus failing to make the powerful emotional and obvious economic case for the union?”
Eamon De Valera was the figurehead who led Ireland to independence.
But, Cabinet Office minister Lord Nicholas True replied: “I cannot conceive that anyone would wish to remove Her Majesty the Queen as our head of state.”
This is an opinion shared by several politicians. Former British Liberal Party leader David Steel also told Newsweek: “Some nationalists are calling for a referendum, but they are a small but vocal minority and would not gather support.”
However, it’s worth noting that back in 2015 Ms Sturgeon was actually accused of a “republican insurrection” in a funding row over the monarchy.
The official in charge of the Queen’s account at the time, Sir Alan Reid, expressed his worries about what would happen if Holyrood were permitted to control the crown estate assets in Scotland.
Writing in The Telegraph, journalist Cathy Newman said: “The Scottish Parliament has reportedly let it be known that it will retain the profits for the Crown Estate in Scotland for use in Scotland — a decision which could reduce funding for the Royal Family by more than £2million a year.”
The First Minister then furiously responded herself on Twitter, writing: “There is absolutely, categorically, no intention by @scotgov to cut S’land’s contribution to the Sovereign Grant and never has been.”
Journalist Eleni Courea wrote in The Spectator that this row prompted fears of “a republiucan insurrection” from the SNP — even though the fears were unfounded, as the Royal Family is actually funded by the Treasury and is not a devolved issue.
However, if Scotland were to become independent, it would then have to establish how it would finance the monarchy — if at all.
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