Tuesday, 24 November 2009


Seat of the Scottish Head of State

Isn’t it about time we began talking about what a future independent Scotland should be like? Math Campbell made the point well in his excellent article:


There are many vexed questions that will need to be considered. Will we use the pound? Will we be in NATO? What voting system will we use? And so on. Perhaps in future polls we will ask some of these questions and others as Math suggests. I thought that, as the name of the blog suggests a republican agenda, it might be an idea to start with the question of whether an independent Scotland should be a republic or a monarchy.

The choices in the poll are:

A republic with a non executive president along the style of India, Ireland, Germany or Iceland, where the incumbent has no political power and acts only in a ceremonial role;

A republic along the French, American, South African, Pakistani, style where the president has executive power;

A monarchy shared with the UK, where Elizabeth I, is head of state, followed by her successors, ie Prince Charles, then William, etc as in other Commonwealth countries;

A monarchy where the King/Queen invited to take the throne is a current member of the UK royal family...eg, Princess Anne, Princess Alexandra, Prince William, etc;

A monarchy with an invited King/Queen from another source, eg, another royal house in Europe or elsewhere, or from amongst the population of Scotland.

Of course there are other possibilities, but not ones likely to be of interest in a modern western society.

So, I’m asking the readers of the blog to give some mature reflection to the question (it is one that we will have to face at some time in the future), and to vote!

(This article, and the accompanying poll is a collaboration between Munguin and Tris.)


  1. Queen and country as ever........

  2. A republic with a non executive president along the style of India, Ireland, Germany or Iceland, where the incumbent has no political power and acts only in a ceremonial role.
    That has to be the best option. The government is accountable for running the country and anything else should just be used for ceremonial role's .
    I'm not totally against the Royal family , its just the sheer scale of it. Had we had a monarchy on the scale of the Dutch then I would possibly like to see the queen remain head of state in an Independent Scotland.

    To be honest, only elected representatives should hold power.

  3. Fair dos Niko. That's what the poll is about. I respect opinions even though I disagree with them.

    Seriously, I know that the Queen enjoys a fair amount of support and affection in the country, and in the rest of the UK, but I'd be interested to know if that same level of support or affection would be shared with King Charles and Queen Camilla? What do you think?

  4. Spook: I don't have anything against the Queen personally. There are those who think she has done a good job, and those who think not. Overall I doubt that as far as SHE is concerned we have that much to complain about. Her massive family is another kettle of fish. Whoever they are and regardless of whether they carry out royal duties on the Queen's behalf, they live incredibly privileged lives, and there are so many of them. They now expect to be able to do all the things that other people can do, at the same time as retaining that "special" staus. And it's all at our expense. (Although, to be fair, that's not an entirely new thing. I understand Princess Margaret expected that kind of treatment too.)

    As you say, the Dutch, not to mention the Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, and a few others in Europe, have a far smaller and, I imagine, less expensive royal families which seem to be able to do the job just as well.

    But hey, that's my opinion, and this post is about exploring what Scotland wants, not what Tristan wants!

  5. The Spanish monarchy does not have all the hangers on either. In fact I think only ours does in Europe. (I'm not too sure about Lichtenstein mart you.)

  6. I have nothing personally against the Queen either. I just have a problem with anyone holding a postion in society that is as a result of birth and nothing else. There is just no place for that in a modern 21st century European nation.

  7. Tris I agree I just do not see Charles III and Queen Camilla being as popular as the current Queen. For a start he will not be able to be the a-political monarch his mother is and will insist on sticking his oar in. In that respect he may do more to forward the republican cause that anyone else.

  8. Having been late for work once when a minor Royal decided to go shopping/whoring/golfing and no less than six motorcycle cops held up the traffic for ten minutes to let the huge motorcade go past(Two bikes, an armed response car and several other high end saloons), I am so Republican it hurts.
    As well as a Monarchy being SO thirteenth century of course.

  9. Munguin: The Liechtenstein princely family appears to consist of:

    Prince Hans-Adam II. and Princess Marie and their 4 children: Hereditary Prince Alois, Prince Maximilian, Prince Constantin and Princess Tatjana.

    Isn't Google wonderful?

  10. Conan: Brilliant excuse for being late for work though.... See, they come in handy for something!! (Note to self: must use this excuse sometime.)

  11. Why have a head of State in any capacity? I can't see any benefit in having someone who is deemed better or given special priveliges when that function can be adequately performed by our elected representatives accountable to that excecutive on our behalf at a far less cost.

  12. Post independence,

    Following independence a new Constitution (and a Bill of Rights - and Responsibilities) will be required for the new state. That will take a little while.

    Simple really, Queen Elizabeth I or her heir can have the job for while, with a commitment to a Referendum (yes, another one) put to the citizens of Scotland within, say 5 years.

  13. Tris

    I Have taken the queens shilling and will support till the end after she has gone I do not know.

    I prefer a head of state as a figurehead only and royalty does earn a fortune from tourism

  14. Republican all the way. Can't understand folks who cling on to antidemocratic institutions like the monarchy.

  15. Cruachan:

    We were talking about that this afternoon. I wondered if the First Minister would have time for all the ceremonial kind of stuff. Munguin will probably agree with you. Maybe these things could be shared round the cabinet and Presiding Officer.

  16. Niko thats fair enough.

    Most people would say that the Queen has not been a bad head of state. I'd agree. What mayt come worries me though.

    I think that it's questionable that there is a HUGE tourist trade based on her. I mean the tourists almost never see her. If anything the tourist trade in London may benefit, but not Edinburgh or Glasgow, or Stornoway.

    Even if it did, I think it's possibly a bit degrading to treat Elizabeth like some human version of Blackpool Tower.

    Just my thoughts though.

  17. Scunnert:

    Pretty much my feelings, although, I'm not sure it's dreadfully important... well, not so important as making sure our hospitals are clean, and our kids get a decent education, or our old get enough to heat and eat in the winter.

    But it is something that will have to be dealt with.

    The trouble with royalty is that it's the devils own job to get rid of them once you have them, regardless of how bad they may be. From what I read, it was a real blessing that The Duke of Windsor decided he fancied Mrs Simpson more than he fancied the crown. He would have been a terrible King.

    My personal feeling is that it's cruel to these people to confine them in this day and age to the job. Brown and Salmond and Goldie chose to be political figures. William didn't. Maybe he'd rather be a soldier, or a social worker, or a painter. He'll never have that choice.

    It's really interesting hearing how other people feel about it though.

    Keep it coming.

  18. Well, sorry, I managed to mix up my answers.... Cynical Highlander. It was your suggestion that we were discussing this afternoon.

    Cruachan: I can see the sense in not rushing into a new system, but I worry that once you got them you'll have a job getting rid of them... and secondly, offering then the job for 5 years might be a bit insulting, and they might tell us to ....erm.... well the Queen might say no, or Philip might put it more straightforwardly LOL.

  19. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksNovember 25, 2009 2:20 am

    Is the method by which Scotland can achieve independence firmly established in Scottish or UK law? Will there be a popular referendum followed by a constitutional convention, for example?

    If Scotland has a totally free hand in the matter, it would seem that it might be easier to discard the monarchy. On the other hand, if negotiations with Westminster will be a part of the process, the monarchy might inevitably play a larger role.

    From an American viewpoint, it hardly seems worthwhile to establish an independent republic while maintaining any vestige of the historical monarchy. The idea of an hereditary head of state....and maintaining a family whose function it is to breed those heads of state....is an idea which should have gone out of style centuries ago, IMHO. On the other hand, as a practical political matter, there might be considerable remaining popular support for the monarchy in Scotland.

    As to the poll question itself, a non-executive president with a supreme parliament seems like a good idea. In the US, having political power centers which separately exercise the executive and legislative functions is a source of endless conflict and governmental gridlock. On the other hand, especially if the parliament is unicameral, you might want a check on runaway actions by legislators pandering to the popular passions of the moment.

    For example, the American House of Representatives has members with two year terms who are constantly running for reelection. They will pass any bill that the perpetually ill informed voters are clamoring for. Without the Senate (and the President) to put a brake on things, some really bad legislation would be passed by the House.

    So, governmental power is a balancing act. At the least, a Bill of Rights in a written constitution protects essential minority rights from the passions of the majority, acting through their representatives in parliament.

    Just a few thoughts from a descendent of radicals and revolutionaries.

  20. Tris,

    For once I disagree with you. William can do anything he likes with his life with choices that are open to very few individuals. He can renounce his right to the throne and be a painter, poet, publican etc etc or follow his uncle travelling round the golf courses of the world at public expense. The latter would certainly be my choice!

    As far as the monarchy are concerned I cannot imagine that they bring much tourism to Scotland and certainly not enough to justify their existence. Post independence if her Maj wishes to visit Scotland she can do so at her own expense and leave her racist other half at home.

  21. The question of whether the Queen and her brood bring in huge amounts of money as a tourist attraction is one of the most common myths used to justify their continued existence. But if you think about it, it does not really hold much water. How many people in actual fact go to London simply because of the Royal Family? Perhaps they go to see the trappings of Monarchy on their to do list. But that would all still be there if there was no royal family. Like for example Versailles in France, you can still go to see it without the need to have Lois XVI there. Nobody knows where and when the Queen is going to appear in advance so she herself cannot be any sort of draw. And as Tris so rightly says even fewer are likely to come to Edinburgh as there hasn’t been a real monarchy in residence there since 1608. And the chances of seeing her on her 14 official days in our capital is minute.

  22. Noble Danny:
    That’s about the strength of the procedure. Referendum followed by some sort of constitutional convention, and, I would think, a pile of referenda.

    From what I’ve read of the American system and especially from your reports on the goings on, it seems that what we don’t want, with respect, is to copy it. I wonder at how any legislation ever passes all three parts of your government.

    No matter what we choose, it will have its faults. I think I favour a non-executive president but, I am tempted to think along the lines previously suggested by Cynical Highlander, where he suggested that no head of state was really necessary. I wonder if the duties could not be shared by the Presiding Officer of the Parliament, the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. That might prove to be rather too much work for them, but it is a thought.

    The trouble then is the checks and balances. Too many and no legislation gets through; too few and too much legislation gets through. It is hard work designing a constitution... as your forefathers must have found out!

  23. Brownlie:

    OK, I see what you are saying. He could just go and tell his father and his gran that he doesn't want the job; he doesn't want the titles and he doesn't want the lands, and that he's off to sun himself on the beaches of California.

    But the pressure on him would be huge. The last time that happened, the Duke of Windsor wasn't allowed back into the country. Yes he lived a wee fantasy life for himself in France with his "Altesse Royale" wife in his wee pretendy court, but he never saw his family again.

    Willie would have pressure from all his family, the prime minister, the Archbishop of Canterbury and ... well, he'd even put Jordan off the front page of the Star (maybe).

    It's possible, but it's not really practical.

    From the UK point of view it would be much better to just let the whole thing go, in my opinion. Retire them all off after the Queen dies. But certainly not to start off a new country with, as Danny says above, an idea that should have gone out centuries ago.

  24. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksNovember 25, 2009 5:08 pm

    Munguin....As a potential tourist I agree that my interest is more about the history of the monarchy than about the monarch her/himself. She isn't likely to invite me to tea....or to the state opening of parliament. But I would visit the historic sites and see the artifacts.

    In Scotland, you might insist that the English simply return the things they have taken. I believe that the Stone of Destiny has been returned. (But must be returned to Westminster for coronations.) On the other hand, the Stuart sapphire (owned by Alexander II and taken to England by Edward III) is still in the Queen's crown. There's probably a long list of things you should get back.

  25. I'll leave Munguin to answer that point Danny, but I wonder, talking of the Stone of Destiny, if you are aware of the blog of one of the guys who stole it.


    Here's a nationalist with fire in his belly, as much now as 60 years ago when he went to London and stole the stone.

    His blog is worth a read.

  26. Danny: exactly, you would come here top see say Windsor castle but not in the anticipation of actually seeing the Queen in residence. Would tourists really waste their time hanging about in front of Buckingham Palace in the off chance of seeing the Queen at a distance for a few minutes on the balcony? I think not. As I understand it more tourists go to Paris than to London, so based on type of constitution alone and nothing else, a republic brings in more money than a monarchy. That is that myth laid to rest.

  27. Munguin the myth slayer....

    You could make a tv show out of that ...

    Probably more tourists come to see wee furry creature than royalty.

  28. Tris: I am waiting for the other old chestnuts about why we ought to keep the Queen and her brood, but so far, only that one has been trotted out. I’m sure we are all aware of them they crop up with boring regularity. You know things like: “would you rather have President Tony Blair?”, as if Tony Blair would: a) want such a powerless job; b) be the only candidate or c) be in anyway likely to win. So its just pick an unpopular figure out of the air and suggest them as possible head of a future Republic and that makes the Queen look good and her brood seem reasonable.

  29. Actually, a good question... Would the president have to be Scottish?

    (As in Blair went to school here but he's actually English.)

    You're right of course Blair wouldn't want to be President of a little country. The European Union maybe, or the World maybe. I think we should make him president of Afghanistan.

  30. Well actually that is a phrase often used for keeping the Monarchy in terms of the UK, not just Scotland.

    If Lord Foulkes can be an MSP and a Scottish Lord I do not see why Tony Blair could not be President of Scotland if he could get enough votes. But why not President Lorraine Kelly or Margo MacDonald, or Duncan Banatine or Ian Hamilton, the point is it does not have to be a politician or an ex leader.

  31. Yes, I agree. NO need to be a politician. Probably best not to be in some ways. They can't help but put their tuppence worth in. Ian Hamilton would be fun... although with the greatest respect, I'm not sure that he's the most diplomatic guy in Scotland.

    We'll have to be mindful of Spook's poll for Scot of the Year. There may be some hints in there... The No 7 jersey for Spartans maybe?

  32. Are you suggesting Spook for President of Scotland?

    I have thought of another reason why Tony Blair wont wont the job, it would not pay enough.

  33. Could do worse than Spooky.

    Yes, even if we gave him all the money from the North Sea, he still woundn't be happy, or at least his Mrs wouldn't be...He'd need to keep all his other jobs.

    Blair I mean, not Spook. We could just bung him a few quid. He'd be right in that palace...