The Queen of the Brits is not amused…

Alex Salmond predicted the SNP would win at least 20 seats at last year’s Westminster election. Which he then claimed would mean that he would have Westminster dancing to a Scottish jig. Well, he didn’t win even half of that but his ability to demand, and to receive, more powers for Holyrood has gone on unabashed– and that was before his victory in this year’s Scottish Parliamentary elections.

Queen at Holyrood

The Queen - above politics? Photograph: Reuters: Independent

As I recently pointed out, he gets away with this through a lack of leadership from the Unionist cause. Appeasement from our political leaders appears to be the order of the day. However, some disapproval of the First Minister’s behaviour has very subtly emerged. The Queen makes a point of steering clear of political debate, and it would now seem she is making it clear to Mr Salmond, that for his own purposes, Her Majesty is not about to let him steer her in the opposite direction.

Last Friday saw the official opening of the new term of the Scottish Parliament- quickly followed by the Presiding Officers declaration that it was now in recess for two months! The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were in attendance. As with all good British traditions (even new ones) it followed the precedence of previous openings. As on previous occasions the Queen brought with her the crown of Scotland, under the steady supervision of the new Duke of Hamilton, Scotland’s premier peer, along with the Lord Lyon King of Arms and assorted other gentlemen in equally fancy jackets! As on previous occasions there was poetry recitals and folk music (God save us!) and of course there were speeches. As is now the custom, the Presiding Officer welcomed the Queen, the Queen wished the new Parliament well, and the First Minister responded in kind. The day’s events, as has happened in the past, were finished off with a march past of local groups and charities from across Scotland.

So everything went as before- even the Duke of Edinburgh managed to maintain a dignified impression of indifference hinged with a little boredom, as he flicked through the order of service throughout most for the ceremony. But one small change occurred. In the past Her Majesty has stayed on to watch the procession. Not this time. She was driven to the Parliament and entered through the official entrance. After the speeches, she left through the public entrance and walked straight across the road and back home.

In his address, Alex Salmond took the opportunity to let The Queen know what her place would be in Scotland if he succeeds in breaking up Britain – good chap that he is. The Queen, for her part, has now let it be known that she is not amused.

Mr Salmond’s attempt to re-write history simply won’t wash and his comparison with the Queen’s other realms simple isn’t true. The Queen is not Queen of Scots. For that matter she is not Queen of the English, the Welsh or the Irish either. She is the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. She is Queen of the Brits, plain and simple, and it has been mooted that she doesn’t support any change to this position.

Now, the First Minister, unlike many of his Nationalist colleagues, is no fool. He knows very well that the Monarch commands considerable respect in Scotland. Furthermore, he knows where much of that respect comes from – in Her Majesty’s historic role as Protector of the Church of Scotland and Defender of the Faith. Such things may no longer be fashionable, but they still matter to many. Alex Salmond’s Nationalists have gone out of their way to show respect for the minority religions of Scotland and they fell over themselves in the scramble to be seen meeting the Pope. However, the First Minister alone (because the most vocal Scottish republicans are all in the SNP these days) understands the need to ensure the support of Scotland’s overwhelming majority faith – the Protestants. If he offends them, all is lost. Alex Salmond is shrewd enough to know this and he is determined to show that in an Independent Scotland, the Queen will have her place. She is both a symbol of continuity and reassurance as he tries to convince Scotland to take a dangerous leap into the unknown.

Of course, he’s already stepped on to this territory and blown it with his claim that Scotland and England could share a common defence. The reason it backfired is because he forgot to ask the English how they felt about his proposal. He has now made a similar gaff with the Queen.

His arrogance on this occasion surprised even his most ardent critics. At the very moment he insisted that Scotland would retain the Monarchy, he was left presiding over a procession of his people like a President in waiting. He would surely admit himself that it’s been a bit of a blunder. The First Minister will now tread more carefully.

Far be it for this loyal subject to suggest that Her Majesty should become involved in a political debate, but in reality, this isn’t just a political debate, it’s a constitutional debate. At the Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977 the Queen took the opportunity to publicly remind Jim Callaghan that she could not forget that she was crowned “Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. It appears the Queen has now taken another opportunity to ensure that Mr Salmond knows that whilst others let him lead, the Queen ain’t dancing to no Nationalist jig!

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Posted on July 7, 2011, in Devolved Government, Scotland and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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