The death of Queen Elizabeth II could give new impetus to the Scottish independence debate – Copyright AFP Louisa Gouliamaki
The death of Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland links the nation indelibly to the transfer of power to a new monarch, but her departure also re-ignites debate about Scotland’s independence from Great Britain.
Thousands stood for hours on Sunday to watch the 96-year-old’s coffin arrive from her Balmoral estate at Edinburgh’s Holyrood Palace and Charles’ official proclamation as king.
But Scotland has a strong republican vein, and a few shouts could be heard in the crowd that had gathered along the Royal Mile.
One 22-year-old woman was detained for disturbing the peace for holding up a poster with an obscene anti-monarchist slogan just before the proclamation, while also booing.
For some in the crowd, Elizabeth and her son King Charles III represent the power of the United Kingdom of Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
She was “one of the things that held (the UK) together,” said Archie Nichol, 67, who previously paid his respects at the royal estate of Balmoral, where the queen died on Thursday.
However, many others who expressed their admiration for the late monarch saw this as different from their desire to be an independent nation.
“The Queen clearly had respect for Scotland,” said Nicola Sandilands, 46, a primary school teacher.
“The royal family is as Scottish as anything else,” she told AFP, urging them to become “more relevant and relevant.”
However, she acknowledged that with the death of the monarch, “maybe it will become easier to become a republic”.
“Some Scots will see the end of an era as a natural moment to start a new life,” Scottish journalist Alex Massey wrote in The Times.
– Queen of Scots –
The ruling Scottish National Party (SNP), which wants another independence referendum after a no vote in 2014, is not calling for a republic.
Its founder Alex Salmond coined the term “Queen of Scots” and developed close ties with Charles.
And SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was quick to express her “deepest condolences” on the Queen’s death, praising her “extraordinary dedication and service.”
But a move to another monarch based in England – albeit one educated at a Scottish boarding school, with several Scottish residences and a penchant for kilts – risks weakening ties.
“The union is probably in greater danger now that she’s gone,” veteran journalist Andrew Neal told the Daily Mail.
“King Charles will love Scotland as much as the Queen. But he just doesn’t have her credibility.”
A poll by British think tank Future in June showed that 45 per cent of Scots support a monarchy and 36 per cent want a republic.
At the same time, 51% wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom.
– prudence –
Before becoming king, Charles was known for speaking out on a range of issues, including climate change, a stance that was praised by Scotland’s Daily Record tabloid, which urged him to make the environment his “defining mission” as king.
But as a constitutional monarch, he will have to stay away from anything remotely political, especially independence.
“The demise of the crown is a moment of weakness, perhaps even fragility,” Adam Tomkins, a constitutional lawyer and professor at the University of Glasgow, told The Herald.
He said the “burning question” was whether Charles could “imitate his mother in maintaining the freedom of action by which the monarchy stands or falls”.
Queen Elizabeth II never spoke of independence, although she told a member of the public ahead of the 2014 referendum that she hoped the Scots would “think very carefully about the future”.
Then-Prime Minister David Cameron was caught saying she was “purring on the phone” when he announced the victory of the anti-independence campaign – an indiscretion for which he later apologized.
– Scottish public –
Charles will have his first audience with Sturgeon on Monday when he returns to Scotland to lead his mother’s coffin at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, followed by a vigil.
On Tuesday, her coffin will be brought to London for four days before her funeral on 19 September.
Charles will also visit Northern Ireland and then Wales, completing his tour of all four UK countries.
Back in Edinburgh, Teresa Brown, the 51-year-old secretary, said she was glad he would remain King of Scotland.
“Mostly from Westminster, I want independence. I’m not against the royal family,” she said.