It’s a difficult time to be republican. My intellect and emotions are pulled in all directions.
First, I have been sickened to the back teeth all over again at the use of the Union flag to flog everything England-based chainstores had to sell. For me, the Union flag had become a less irksome symbol over the years, as recognition and familiar usage of the Saltire spread in a quite spontaneous fashion. And now on a par at sporting and a growing number of community events in England, the flag of St George is the symbol of choice.
So as well as taking pleasure at the way in which Scotland has stopped being a bit guilty at flying the flag of St Andrew, continuing to sing “Flower of Scotland” for the sheer hell of pledging “To be a nation again” and showing signs of reconciling the traditional symbols of haggis and heather with contemporary fine cuisine and unmatchable beauty to tempt the tourists, makin’ oor land republican dropped down this republican’s list of priorities.
As the money and celebrity-obsessed culture took hold, thankfully spreading its spores ever more thinly the further north they fell, some younger royals joined in and the Royal Family looked less important. The celeb magazines found other false gods for the aspiring and gullible to worship, and those promoting the new British Dream – winning a TV talent show and becoming filthy rich – achieved the pinnacle of social success without the traditional old school tie advantage. People like me turned their attention to the worsening unfairness that marked the social gap between celebs and the uncool, unwaged unemployed.
Fighting the good republican fight seemed self-indulgent when the Queen proved to be a decent woman and her heir and his consort seem to me up to the job of advising the government of England, which will continue to be their only constitutional role after Scotland becomes independent, even if the Scots vote to continue with a monarchy rather than an elected head of state. Scots might decide to replicate exactly the same relationship between the monarch and the elected parliament as has been the case, but somehow I doubt it. Radicalism is returning to politics, and the scope of action of a monarchy could well be constrained.
The argument against the monarchy still stands – for some might see the reasons above as being theoretical – that as the keystone of the hierarchical edifice of privilege conferred by birth, not ability, it prolongs a class-based society, inequality and a failure to share power and wealth fairly.
As we were reminded because of the Jubilee celebrations, there’s more to the monarchy in this country than the Queen, Duke and their children. It has been the safe reason for people across the UK to voice their otherwise unspoken dislike of this extended family’s privilege by repeating the mantra that the Queen is wonderful; but her relatives leave a lot to be desired and should be turfed out their grace and favour dwellings and find work like the rest of us.
But believing that royals should work is now following on where younger family members have gone on their own account. Princess Margaret’s son has his own up-market carpentry business, one of the Gloucesters is an architect, Princess Anne’s daughter designs courses for equine sports and her brother is a salesman. So working is not the divisive factor between the upper and working classes that it used to be.
So if all of us have to work for our living, do we the people have the right to complain that some people in our society have most of the wealth tied up and the social deference accorded them that allows them to take advantage of their privileged backgrounds and continue their superiority by sending their children to “private” schools that are subsidised by the taxes paid by the common man? Separating children at age five years and younger by virtue of their parents’ status and contacts has produced a divided society. So shouldn’t we be done with the hierarchy that perpetuates our ill-divided society?
And if the answer is a resounding “Yes”, does that include ending our system of dukes, earls, duchesses and the rest, including the peers in the House of Lords and the monarchy itself?
One of the mistakes made by the SNP in planning the referendum has been to forget that people must be consulted on which method of adopting a head of state for a sovereign Scotland is favoured. I’d bet that right now, those of us fed up with Union flags and those who aren’t would probably still agree that although we’re republican at heart, the Queen does a grand job. But it’s two and a half years to the referendum . . .