Queen of the United Kingdom or Queen of Scots?
With just days before Scotland’s historic vote on independence, Queen Elizabeth II is said to have expressed “a great deal of concern” and even to be “horrified” about the prospect of Scotland breaking away form the United Kingdom. Her comments may act as a wake up call for the ‘No’ camp whose ‘Better Together’ rallying call appears to be losing support. The Sovereign’s fears are undoubtedly shared by a growing number of senior politicians after a recent YouGov poll put the ‘Yes’ campaign ahead for the first time. A narrow lead of 51%-49% was shown in one recent poll, but it is viewed as significant indicator that the ‘Yes’ camp has growing momentum as the campaign enters its final days. The conundrum for Queen Elizabeth is that as constitutional head of state she cannot intervene in the debate. But the thought of the UK losing its northernmost member is nigh on unthinkable for the monarch whose lifelong work has been to maintain the national unity. Her Majesty’s strict constitutionality and discretion have played a vital role in her success, but faced with what appears to be a growing threat to national unity some are hoping for a royal intervention.
Hopes that were soon dashed as Buckingham Palace responded quickly to distance the monarchy from the heated political debate: “The Sovereign’s constitutional impartiality is an established principle of our democracy and one which the Queen has demonstrated throughout her reign. As such the Monarch is above politics and those in political office have a duty to ensure that this remains the case. Any suggestion that the Queen should wish to influence the outcome of the current referendum campaign is categorically wrong. This is a matter for the people of Scotland.”
There is also an important historic caveat that complicates the monarch’s position. SNP leader Alex Salmond believes an independent Scotland could keep Queen Elizabeth as head of state, a position she already holds for sixteen of the fifty-three commonwealth nations. This could provide a continuing link between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK. Mr. Salmond claims he has detected the “enthusiasm of the people of Scotland to have Her Majesty the Queen as our Queen of Scots”. Whatever the result on September 18 it is widely agreed that the United Kingdom will face significant political change.