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Republican plot to ditch the Queen after Yes vote

The Queen with First Minister Alex Salmond. Picture: PA

The Queen with First Minister Alex Salmond. Picture: PA

  • by TOM PETERKIN
 

LEFT-wing politicians within the campaign for a Yes vote are preparing a bid to ditch the Queen after independence, Scotland on Sunday can ­reveal.

Opponents of the monarchy believe a vote for independence will give them a historic opportunity to turn Scotland into a republic, despite the SNP’s promise that the Queen will be retained as head of state.

Last night, prominent figures on the left spoke out against the SNP’s stance, which was formalised in the Scottish Government’s proposed interim constitution published last week.

The interim document confirmed that the Queen would be head of state in an independent Scotland.

The commitment to keeping the Queen is today condemned by Colin Fox, the Yes Scotland advisory board member and national spokesman for the Scottish Socialist Party.

Writing in Scotland on Sunday, Fox argues: “I am sure the Scottish Socialist Party is not the only one to see the flaw in this plan. Constitutional sovereignty only rests in the people when they also have the right to elect their own head of state. ‘Hereditary privileges’ and ‘the divine right of kings’ have no place in democratic constitutions worthy of the name.

“The view that ‘the people are sovereign’ cannot be upheld if we maintain a constitution that describes us as ‘subjects of Her Majesty’. Such an approach cannot be reconciled to democratic principles of equality, citizenship and the sovereignty of the people.”

The aim of an independent Scotland removing the monarch as head of state was last night backed by other leading figures in the Yes campaign, including prominent members of the Scottish Greens and the left-leaning Common Weal project.

The commitment to the monarchy was made in the Scottish Independence Bill proposals published by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last week.

The bill sets out the interim constitutional platform, which would serve as the basis for the government of Scotland from independence day on March 24, 2016, until a permanent constitution is agreed.

The bill will be introduced to Holyrood after September’s referendum, if there is a Yes vote. It will be accompanied by a revised version of the Scotland Act, which would enable Scotland to act as an independent country until a permanent constitution is produced.

Alex Salmond’s government has said Scotland’s permanent, written constitution will be agreed by the people in a constitutional convention, which will be established immediately after independence.

Anti-monarchists believe the convention will provide them with the opportunity to frame a constitution for Scotland which does not have role for the Queen.

Patrick Harvie, the Green MSP and independence campaigner, was more relaxed about the interim constitution than Fox, but he said he would be pursuing radical consti­tutional change in the long term.

“I recognise that we are not suddenly going to convert the SNP to republicanism. After a Yes vote parliament will probably pass the interim constitutional law, which retains the Queen as head of state,” Harvie said.

“After that, however, the constitutional convention will look at the alternatives and I will be making the case for an elected head of state.

“We can live with that [the interim constitution] at the moment, but it is not my ideal preference. The most important thing is to secure a Yes vote.”

Robin McAlpine of the Common Weal project run by the Jimmy Reid Foundation, the left leaning organisation set up in memory of the trade unionist, was also of the view that a Scottish republic could be established in the long term.

“This is a transitional period and what I think that the SNP are down-playing is that they have said the people of Scotland can write the constitution, so we are actually going to have a national debate about who is going to be our head of state,” McAlpine said.

“I would have thought that two years after a Yes vote, the chances of getting the idea of a constitutional monarchy through the Scottish people is slim. I will be campaigning for a Scottish republic, but I am not exactly worried about keeping her for the interim, it is hard to see how anything else would be possible.”

McAlpine added: “This is an interim constitution and it is maybe going to last two years. Even I probably wouldn’t have summarily turfed the Queen out in an interim constitution. There is time to get that done.”

McAlpine said he was relatively comfortable with the clause in the interim constitution, which said that Queen would be retained. But was less so with the clause, which followed, saying she would be followed on the throne by her “heirs and successors”.

Last night, the No campaign described the differing positions on the monarchy in the Yes movement as a “shambles”.

A Better Together spokesman said: “This infighting within the Nationalist camp, less than 90 days before the referendum, shows that even they have no idea what a separate Scotland would look like.

“The nationalists should spend less time arguing over their fantasy constitution and come clean about how much starting up a separate state would cost people in Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The position of the Queen as head of state will form an intrinsic part of the constitutional platform in place for independence in 2016.… That is consistent with the people of Scotland being sovereign because, as the bill published last week says, in an independent Scotland, all state power and authority comes from and is subject to, the will of the people.”

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