Queen Elizabeth did not express a view but proved a 'steadfast friend' of devolution – Ian Swanson
The Queen’s passing at Balmoral on Thursday came just over 25 years after another royal death shocked the nation.
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Although the circumstances were very different, the death of Princess Diana in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997, also left many grieving and meant a pause in much of public life.
Voting in Scotland's referendum on devolution was less than a fortnight away, but all campaigning was suspended for a week.
It resumed the day after the funeral with Gordon Brown and Sir Sean Connery making a joint boat trip from South Queensferry to Rosyth. Labour, the SNP, Lib Dems and Greens were all on the same side, campaigning for a “Yes Yes” vote, and a rally with other party leaders was held at the old Royal High School later.
The late Labour leader John Smith, who had died three years earlier, used to call devolution "unfinished business". He had worked on the ill-fated 1979 plans for a Scottish Assembly, when a narrow majority voted in favour but the support failed to clear the notorious hurdle requiring 40 per cent of the total electorate to back the plans.
His successor Tony Blair admitted he was never a passionate supporter of devolution and believed it was "a dangerous game" but saw it as "inevitable".
And, following Labour’s landslide victory in May 1997, he delivered at top speed on the party’s pledge of a new Scottish Parliament – the referendum was held just four months later and the parliament itself was up and running within two years.
The Queen, of course, never expressed her view on devolution. But in a Silver Jubilee speech in 1977 she acknowledged that “the feeling that metropolitan government is too remote from the lives of ordinary men and women” had “helped to revive an awareness of historic national identities” before adding that she could never forget she had been crowned Queen of the whole UK.
The 1997 referendum produced a three-to-one vote in favour of a Scottish Parliament and a 63.5 per cent to 36.5 per cent vote for it to have tax powers.
The Queen fully embraced devolution: she gifted the parliament its mace bearing the words "Wisdom, Justice, Compassion, Integrity"; she attended ceremonies to mark the start of each new session; and Nicola Sturgeon said she had been its “steadfast friend”.
When it came to the 2014 independence referendum, the Queen famously commented to a well-wisher outside Crathie Kirk, near Balmoral, that she hoped voters would "think very carefully about the future". After the vote against independence, David Cameron told how she had "purred" down the phone at the result.
But if the vote had been Yes, she would have had to accept and adapt to that too, especially given the SNP's insistence that she would have remained head of state in an independent Scotland.
Broadcaster Andrew Neil has suggested the Union is "more in jeopardy" now the Queen has gone. So could Charles III's reign see Scotland become an independent country?
The path to independence is less than clear at the moment. But even if independence does not happen, there is likely to be more constitutional adjustment. Gordon Brown is heading a commission for Labour, looking at further devolution.
One way or another the unfinished business may well not yet be completed.