Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Hail to the King, baby!

Bubbling in the background of the referendum debate has been the role that the current monarchy would have in an independent Scotland.  It shouldn’t be, as the only issue being debated is whether we make political decisions for ourselves or let Westminster make them for us, but the ‘no’ campaign is trying to convince royalists that the Queen will be stripped of all the power she doesn’t use and thus we should keep political (and monetary) power at Westminster.

Even if that was true (it’s not) it’s still a relatively minor price to pay compared to the massive gains we will enjoy following independence, but what will be the future role of the monarchy?

 Sorry, wrong king
The short answer to this is…largely the same, with a couple of exceptions.  On the day that independence is declared (the 31st of March 2016) the Queen (or whoever is on the throne at that time) will be head of state.  There is, at the moment, no mandate to change this.  She’ll be known as Elizabeth the 1st (or Elizabeth, Queen of Scots), and will continue doing the same things that she does at the moment.

There are just three exceptions to this.  The first are the actual powers she will have.  To understand the differences, we need to do a quick history lesson and compare Magna Carta (which broadly forms the principles of the constitution of England) and the Declaration of Arbroath (which fulfils the same role for Scotland).

Magna Carta was the first document forced onto a King of England by his subjects and ended the absolute power of the monarchy.  In simple terms, the Crown in Parliament is supreme (http://cornerstone-group.org.uk/2011/01/24/crown-in-parliament/).  Nothing can overrule decisions made in the House of Commons which the House of Lords and the Monarchy has assented to.

 "This is how the head of state is decided in a modern democray!" Sir Lion of Steak
The Declaration of Arbroath is slightly different.  It acknowledges that a monarch (and in our case its modern day interpretation, Parliament) has obligations to the people, and that it can be legitimately replaced if it fails.
“The Scots clergy had produced not only one of the most eloquent expressions of nationhood, but the first expression of the idea of a contractual monarchy.” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/history/articles/in_depth_declaration_of_arbroath/)
The role of the monarchy (and even parliament) is treated differently.  In Scotland, we will be writing a new, modern constitution which takes the best aspects of Magna Carta, the Declaration of Arbroath and the numerous other constitutions which have been created over the last few centuries, but the starting point will be that the people are sovereign, and that no individual or institution can override their will.

The second exception is the potential for change.  At the moment the people of Scotland don’t get any say.  Neither of the two parties who can be elected to govern at Westminster (Conservative and Labour) supports even a debate on the issue.  This cheapens the monarchy as they are in an unchallenged position of authority.

Recent photograph of William and Kate

An independent Scotland would be different, as there would be parties who can form the government who support a referendum.  This means that people will have a choice – if you don’t want the monarchy to change, then don’t vote for parties which advocate that position.  And even if those who support a republic gain 51% of the seats at Holyrood, they will still require a referendum, allowing a full and open debate.

The last exception is one which most royalists would enjoy: a coronation ceremony in Scotland.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you support a Monarchy or a Republic; Scottish Independence is about empowering the people of Scotland to decide what future we want to see.  And only voting ‘Yes’ will bring the power back.

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