ON the day that Her Majesty the Queen becomes Britain’s longest serving monarch, it seems only right to reflect on a reign that has been remarkable.
Among other things, it has been remarkable for its longevity, remarkable for the unprecedented change it has witnessed and remarkable for the sense of duty displayed by the Queen herself.
Despite this, the value of the monarchy as an institution is regularly questioned, and some will use today’s milestone to do so again. After all, the idea that an individual should be elevated to such a privileged position purely through an accident of birth would be considered ridiculous if the concept was to be introduced in 2015.
But few would attempt to question the devotion the Queen has shown towards the role she was born into.
Since the death of her father George VI in 1952, the Queen has been a tireless ambassador for the country. She ascended to the throne in the aftermath of the Second World War and has been a constant and reassuring presence through the travails of the Cold War and the modern terrorist threat. For 63 years and seven months, her commitment has never wavered, whatever personal difficulties she has endured.
From that point of view, the fact that her reign has now eclipsed her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, is worth celebrating. In many ways it is fitting that the Queen should spend today in Scotland, officially opening the Borders Railway. As one might expect of someone whose mother was brought up at Glamis and who spends her summers at Balmoral, Scotland is close to her heart. That fondness is reciprocated by the majority of Scots.
It was particularly telling that last year’s campaign for Scottish independence studiously avoided going down the republican route. Although there are plenty within the SNP who would like to see an end to the monarchy, Alex Salmond and others at the head of the Yes Scotland campaign were keenly aware that going down that road would be a vote loser, given the Queen’s popularity north of the Border.
Indeed, there is a very strong argument that it is her personal popularity and the respect in which she is held throughout the United Kingdom that has kept a lid on any republican murmurings of discontent.
Without wishing to be too morose, today’s achievement is also a reminder of the passage of time. Nothing – not even the Queen – lasts forever. At some point, the UK’s constitutional monarchy will be bereft of its greatest asset.
Of course, Prince Charles has been serving his apprenticeship for what seems like an eternity. But when the time comes for him to follow in his mother’s footsteps, he will find her a hard act to follow.
The SNP’s problem with the BBC
It should be painfully obvious by now that the SNP has a problem with the BBC. Alex Salmond’s spat with Nick Robinson and the crescendo of complaints about supposed bias in its referendum coverage have made sure of that.
Nicola Sturgeon has also weighed in with her analysis of the Corporation’s shortcomings and her vision for new exclusively Scottish TV and radio channels.
Yesterday saw the latest in the SNP’s diatribe against the BBC. This time from the Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop, who suggested the BBC Director General Tony Hall appeared more interested in providing a better service for North Korea than Scotland.
“Tony Hall called for a better BBC service for North Korea, but has yet to show how a better service and audience demands for Scotland will be delivered,” Hyslop said.
Her remarks were a reference to Hall’s recent pledge to invest in the World Service and produce a daily news bulletin for North Korea. To suggest, as Hyslop appeared to do, that North Korea is more of a priority for the broadcaster than Scotland, is just another example of the SNP’s anti-BBC rhetoric getting shriller.
The shriller the rhetoric, the greater the impression that the SNP’s complaints lack objectivity and are simply complaints for the sake of complaining. There may well be flaws in the BBC’s coverage of Scotland, but they should be raised in a more constructive tone than the one used by Hyslop yesterday. Otherwise the number of people growing weary of the SNP’s game of blame the broadcaster will dramatically increase.