Scottish independence: Ditch the Queen, Salmond told

Alex Salmond shares a joke with the Queen but Dennis Canavan doesn't believe the monarch should be head of an independent Scotland
Alex Salmond shares a joke with the Queen but Dennis Canavan doesn't believe the monarch should be head of an independent Scotland
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THE QUEEN should not be head of state of an independent Scotland, the chairman of the pro-independence Yes campaign has said.

At a Radical Independence Conference yesterday, former Labour MP Dennis Canavan criticised the Scottish Government’s proposal to keep the monarchy in place if Scotland backs independence.

Dennis Canavan

Dennis Canavan

First Minister Alex Salmond has said he would want the Queen to remain head of state after a Yes vote, noting that the Union of Crowns pre-dates the political Union of Scotland and England.

However, Canavan yesterday said that the building blocks of Scottish democracy meant that sovereignty should be with the people, and not an unelected monarch.

He was referring to the Claim of Right, reaffirmed ­prior to the setting up of the devolved Scottish Parliament in 1988, which acknowledged the “sovereign right of the Scottish people”.

Canavan told the conference in Glasgow: “The existing Scottish Parliament was based on the Claim of Right, which enshrined the sovereignty of the people of Scotland.

“That to me makes the principle irreconcilable with the sovereignty of a non-elected hereditary monarchy.”

He went on: “If those who think that today’s monarchy has no or little relevance to the big picture in terms of building a fairer Scotland, let me remark that the Westminster parliament passed a bill to take a considerable amount of money from the Crown Estate and hand it back to the Royal Family. There was hardly a murmur of protest at the House of Commons.”

He went on: “The Crown ­Estate should be the People’s Estate. And it should be the Scottish Parliament that ­decides.”

Canavan’s comments on the monarchy were backed by other speakers yesterday, as they called for the independence campaign to set out a clear radical vision to take to people ahead of the 2014 referendum.

It follows criticism from some left-wing figures on the pro-independence side that the SNP has been too “cautious and conservative” in its approach so far, as it seeks to boost support above 50 per cent.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie, who also spoke at yesterday’s conference, said the vision had to be better than just a “more Sottish version of the status quo”. He said instead the campaign should be “articulating a vision of transformational change”.

On nuclear weapons, speaker Isobel Lyndsay, the vice-chairwoman of Scottish CND, said independence would get rid of Trident nuclear submarines from the Clyde and disarm the whole of the UK as well, saying there was nowhere else for the weapons to go. “We will be giving the people of England a generous gift. They will no longer have to pay for Trident,” she said.

Referring to recent cautionary comments from the USA, she said it was no surprise that the US “don’t like” the idea of independence. “They don’t want anything that will undermine their most loyal poodle,” she said.

The conference also heard fierce attacks on the UK government’s policies, with one speaker claiming that its welfare reforms breached the UN Convention on Human Rights.

Former SNP MSP Jean ­Urquhart – who quit the party over its backing of Nato – said credit needed to be given to the SNP and Alex Salmond, saying that without them “we would not be looking forward to a day at the end of 2014”.Looking ahead to an independent Scotland, she added: “It’s not about SNP policy, it’s about what we all imagine and I suspect there will be as many different Scotland’s as there are people in this room and that is just great.”

Salmond, who did not attend the conference, said he welcomed the event but added, “just as we welcomed the creation of Labour for Independence and welcome support for independence from the entrepreneurial and more free-market perspective”.

He went on: “The strong range of Scottish opinions arguing for a Yes vote is both beneficial and expected – and, of course, it highlights that post-independence the people of Scotland will have the opportunity to choose from a range of political perspectives and parties.”

The conference heard from speakers from Greece’s left-wing party, Syriza, Canada’s Québec Solidaire, and from the Basque country’s Bildu party.

Twitter: @EddieBarnes23