Everyone is speaking for the Queen apart from the Royal lady herself. Last week Alex Salmond took the liberty of suggesting that the Queen “would be proud” to rule over an independent Scotland. Buckingham Palace issued a statement in response saying that the monarch was “above politics”, that it would be “categorically wrong” for her to lend support to either side in the Referendum and that she “is firmly of the view that this is a matter for the people of Scotland”. However, a few days later Nigel Farage insisted that the Queen had a responsibility to speak: “There are times where if the United Kingdom, over which she is the monarch, is threatened itself, it might be right for her to say something.”
With the referendum squatting outside her front door and Scotland looking perilously like it might slip out of her grasp, it is interesting to consider what the Queen thinks of all this. After all, whether she can comment on it or not, the vote has the potential to rob her of a sizeable part of her Kingdom; she can hardly be indifferent. Current plans suggest that in an independent Scotland the Queen would remain head of state. Since the monarchic union of Scotland and England pre-dates the political union by over a century, deriving from the crowning of James VI of Scotland as James I of England in 1603, there is technically no reason why this should not be the case.
However, as with many of the details of the referendum, the exact constitutional terms are currently unclear, and the chair of the ‘Yes’ campaign, Dennis Canavan, has argued for a referendum on who would be head of state if Scotland were to become independent. Worryingly, for the Queen at least, a large proportion of the SNP have republican tendencies. Even if Salmond gets his preference and the Queen remains head of state, her role would be likely to change, and would be dependent on the position laid out for her in the constitution of the newly independent country. However, the Scottish Government has stated that in the event of an independent Scotland sovereignty would rest with the Scottish people, rather than with the Crown in Parliament as it does at present, and the ‘White Paper’ on Scottish independence sets a precedent for an independent Scotland to contribute to monarchic upkeep through taxes.
The monarch’s relationship to Scotland is well-established and affectionate. The Queen spends a week every year at Edinburgh’s Holyrood Palace, Prince Charles was sent to boarding school in Scotland and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are, North of the Border, the Earl and Countess of Strathearn. A palace insider, commenting on the Queen’s attitude to the referendum, told The Telegraph that a result of Scottish independence could be “the death of her”. This is potentially a little histrionic, but, contrary to her silence now, the Queen made her feelings on Scottish independence fairly clear in her 1977 Silver Jubilee speech. “I cannot forget that I was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and of Northern Ireland”, she said. “Perhaps this Jubilee is a time to remind ourselves of the benefits which union has conferred, at home and in our international dealings, on the inhabitants of all parts of the United Kingdom.”
With this in mind, it is difficult to view her silence now as anything other than a hushed worry that she may lose a treasured part of her realm.
Regardless, there seems little doubt that until the results are in, she will be sitting in her Scottish home at Balmoral, biting her nails and fretting over the future of the Union.