It seems that it’s a requirement, particularly in these potent days of nationalist and republican debate, for Scottish writers to be card carrying nationalists and republicans. Week after week I listen to writers getting behind the SNP and taking potshots at the monarchy.
I’m sorry to break the pattern, but I don’t fall into line with either of those ways of thinking.
I watched The Big Question on BBC1 this morning, and what I saw was a great example not only of the breadth of coverage of opinion, but also that we live in a country where people can speak out for or against things, even the establishment, without fear of violent reprisal.
We are lucky to have that, and I firmly believe that the system in which we live – a democratically elected government with a monarchy above it – is the very thing that gives us that freedom. We should be celebrating this, not seeking to destroy it.
Among even the most republican of republicans in the audience this morning, not one single person came out and said they didn’t think the Queen had done a bad job. Not one person actually called for her to be sacked and for the monarchy to be disbanded. The general weight of the argument seemed to be calls for them to be elected and accountable.
We, as a nation, already have this right. We hold elections to choose our representatives that we wish to serve us for a fixed term in government, and to shape our laws and society. We put our trust in them to take the big decisions and divert money to where it is best put to use.
If they fuck it up, we sack them and vote in someone else. Meanwhile the monarchy sits above this ever-changing entity, acting as the tangible measure of stability through all our nations’ crisis.
The expenses scandal, Leveson, Iraq and Afghanistan, coalition governments, world wars; behind it all is our Monarch, our non-elected and non-accountable Head of State. This is the backbone that keeps this small group of nations fighting above its weight, and not ending up paralysed like Greece or Spain.
It is the very fact we have a monarchy that keeps us from falling into a mire of civil failure like so many others, and that sets us apart. Without it, we have no measure of stability and the politicians will become evermore unaccountable.
Alex Salmond recognises this fact. He has stated in his vision for an independent Scotland, that he wishes to keep the Queen as Scotland’s Head of State.
Won’t that cost too much, though? Blaming the Queen is the wrong way of seeing what’s happening. If the politicians can find billions to bail out our banks, they sure as hell could find a few extra hundred thousand pounds to help out our councils and charities, charities like The SKY Project, who try to better the lives if underprivileged kids.
It’s not the Queen’s fault charities like that are in the position they are, it’s the politicians. The Queen acts as the barrier that protects the constitution and nation from the worst of itself; the politicians are the ones that get it wrong; the same people WE voted in.
Only 65% of us turned out to vote in the 2010 election (that’s the third lowest turnout since World War II), that led to the arse-up of a coalition we have now. That’s the same coalition that everyone is now trampling the streets in protest against their policies and cutbacks. I don’t see any anti-monarchy marches today. All I see is a lot of people using the Jubilee as a reason to get together instead of staying home to watch crappy Sunday TV.
Alan Bissett on The Big Question this morning, said: “We don’t need the Queen to tell us to go out and get together.” Yet other than the Royal Wedding last year and the previous Jubilee in 2002, I can’t think of any other times in our recent history that has been the spark to bring out so many people into the streets for BBQs and a knees-up.
That’s just in England though! Well, no it’s not. The street around the corner of me in Leith is closed off for a street party. There’s around 30 others in Edinburgh alone, and I can’t remember that last time that happened.
So Alan, I think we do need occasions like this. Can you see us all doing the same thing for President Salmond’s Jubilee?
I would therefore argue, that while people see the Queen’s Jubilee as the perfect time to shout out against the monarchy, the net effect is the opposite, and it is precisely these occasions that brings Britain together.
But maybe that’s what pisses a lot of Scots off? We’re a curmudgeonly race and we prefer to have something to complain about. We complain about the Queen because she is there. We complain about our politicians because they make cutbacks, (yet perhaps if we had gone out and voted we wouldn’t be in this mess). And we complain about the English for stealing our money and being racist to us.
If Scotland becomes an independent republic, who the hell are we going to blame everything on? Oh, shit, that’ll be our own fault then. Scotland will be forced to be responsible and accountable for its failures.
Scotland will implode!
So I say to all those shouting about how much better off we would be without a monarchy, to ask yourselves this: is it the presence of a monarchy that you fundamentally disagree with, or is it the fact that you are so frustrated with those who actually have a negative effect on your life that you are lashing out against?
And while we’re at it, ask yourself this one: you weren’t born into royalty but if you were, I presume you would see it as a good thing; money, privilege, free holidays all the time, right?
Here’s a picture: you’re 10 years old and your mum says to you: son/daughter, you aren’t like ordinary kids so no, you can’t go out to play. You have to show respect to everyone, you can’t just go anywhere on your own, and you have to live the way protocol dictates. There are a lot of people out there who if they see you, will try to kill you just because you are my son/daughter. Others think you are the best thing to happen to the country. Oh, and one day you might become King/Queen and you will have to learn how to handle politicians, other royalty, and the ordinary punter on the street. Your whole life will be watched through the press and the media, from your birth to your death. You will have to represent this nation through all the worst and good times. Oh, and there is nothing you can do about it; this is your life.
Great eh? If it had been me I would have been asking: “why the hell did this have to happen to me?”
Maybe if you answer these questions honestly, you will look upon our Monarch as someone who has not flinched from her duty and his given her life to see through what was expected of her.
These are not fashionable views in Scotland, and even less so because I’m a writer. I just hope that one day all ties aren’t broken and that it will be expected of me to bow before President Salmond.
God Save The Queen