Scottish independence: If the Royals are trying to save the Union, it is a diplomatic blunder that will not work – Helen Martin

For most of my life, I admired the Royals. My great aunt had been a housekeeper for the Duke of Westminster and passed on her enthusiasm for the aristocrats and the Windsors.

Monday, 31st May 2021, 4:55 am
Prince William and Kate planted the first tree for the St Andrews Forest, one of the key initiatives in the university’s action plan to become carbon neutral by 2035 (Picture: Andy Buchanan/PA)

She retired and came home to Edinburgh before I was born and, when I was about five, she took me to Princes Street when the Queen was being slowly driven along with thousands, including me, waving a little Union Jack.

As I was growing up, I was devoted to horses and Princess Anne was a wonderful equestrian. And in those days, everyone listened to the Queen’s Christmas broadcast, organising their festive family dinner before or after.

In my teenage years and early twenties, like most of my friends I wasn’t particularly interested in politics, certainly had no idea of the SNP, and assumed the Royals weren’t supporting a political party anyway whether it would be Liberal, Conservative or Labour that won in the UK.

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Even when we had our first SNP parliament in the third devolved election in 2007, when I was 54, I wasn’t considering independence. But then, as the SNP received more attention from everyone, and many of us certainly remembered Margaret Thatcher’s grim effects on Scotland, my attitude started to change.

When the Indyref happened in 2014, I was up for that. But even then, many people in Scotland (however silly this sounds) still believed it would be possible to be independent, but also maintain the Royal family. They had the former palace or current Holyrood House, had garden parties in their Holyrood Park, and like Queen Victoria they loved Balmoral Castle and the Highlands.

They could continue to attract tourists and carry out Scottish promotion on international tours, just as they had done for us as part of the UK. Since the majority voted against independence, that didn’t apply anyway. David Cameron had persuaded the Queen to subtly discourage Yes votes.

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Now, with another Indyref currently planned for 2023 and understanding of how Westminster is determined to stop it, that old, naïve Royal maintenance has become rather ludicrous.

Some aspects of the Windsors – be it Prince Andrew’s alleged behaviour, Royal family tax breaks kept private from the public, and Harry and Meghan opting out – can affect their popularity.

And now, the Royals being encouraged to save the Union by trying to attract Scots to stay in the UK is also not popular or diplomatic when the Scottish majority have already voted for SNP and pro-independence parties.

Do Royals support and obey the Conservatives? That matches the club of super-rich who don’t succumb to full taxation like most of the public. Do they feel independence might cause a problem with Holyrood and Balmoral?

I feel that William and Kate are more modern Royals with a higher understanding of the public, though I doubt this week’s visit to Scotland persuades people to vote No to independence and stay in the UK.

But I still think they and the rest of their family would be welcome in Holyrood or Balmoral, also with their security team, even if they were not our sovereigns.

As many MSPs delivered their parliamentary vow of Royal allegiance, they also clearly vowed that Scottish sovereignty lies with the people.

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