Martin Hannan: A ‘Brit’ of a do 400 miles away

If you’re enjoying a day off work today because a half-Scottish, half-English lady has reached the age of 86, you will no doubt join me in thanking the Windsor family for its possession of longevity genes.

Shame, by the way, on those employers who did not enter into the spirit of the weekend and did not let staff have all four days off, including today. You know who you are, you mean-spirited bunch, and your names have been noted – those bosses can kiss goodbye to any chance of getting an MBE.

The diamond jubilee of the ascension to the throne of Her Majesty the Queen is undoubtedly an occasion for celebration, and I am very happy to share in the general joy of the jubilee, but at the same time I have to ask what does it really mean for people here in Edinburgh and across Scotland?

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Judging by the lack of red, white and blue bunting and Union flags around the city, Edinburgh did not go overboard for the Jubilee at the weekend, though the Capital was mobbed to such an extent that a friend of mine could not get a hotel room until those indefatigable people at the Tourist Centre found a vacancy in Ultima Thule, or North Queensferry as it is otherwise known.

So no-one can say it was a missed opportunity for Edinburgh to capitalise on a weekend of celebration – for there was literally no room at the inns for anyone wanting to come here to mark the Jubilee.

Personally I thought the mostly restrained celebrations in Scotland were apt for the occasion, and London was rightly at the heart of the festivities – it’s where the Queen lives, after all.

If you caught the broadcasters’ and London newspapers’ reports of the Thames pageant on Sunday, however, you would also have discovered one of the problems that some people have about the monarchy and about the British “nation” as a whole. For report after report about Sunday’s events spoke of Britain defying the wind and rain to enjoy the show. Britain? I don’t know where you were on Sunday, but I was in Edinburgh and the sun shone practically the whole day.

There’s the rub. On a day which was hijacked by those who wanted to celebrate “Britishness” – whatever that is – the London-based media committed their usual sin of presuming that even the meteorology inside the M25 was the norm for the whole of our unitary state that consists of four separate countries.

You do not need to be a member of the SNP like myself to get annoyed at the way the Queen’s anniversary was turned into a political exercise. Clearly the forces of perfidious Albion had decided that “Britishness” was the thing to be celebrated, hence the copious and widespread references to that supposed quality. Yes, we celebrated the magnificent job of work done by the Queen over the last 60 years, but if I read another word about how the Jubilee showed “Britishness” at its finest, I swear I’ll be sick.

I tried hard but I spotted only the odd Saltire in and around the Thames pageant and at the couple of street parties I bumped into in Edinburgh. It was as if the Establishment, as personified by our hapless Westminster government, had decreed that only the Union flag would fly, and the Great British Public went along with them.

It was symbolic, but nevertheless remarkable, that Her Majesty’s position as Queen of Scots was hardly ever mentioned, except by sniffy pundits trying to make out that Scotland had shunned the whole jamboree. No we hadn’t – we just did it our way because the big party was 400 miles south.

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While the Queen quite rightly wanted the inclusiveness of the Commonwealth to be celebrated, it was the notion of “Britishness” which commentators and politicians kept harping on about. It all got a bit wearing, frankly.

As the celebrations draw to a close this evening, I hope people will reflect on the monarchy and what it means for all of us, especially as we Scots contemplate our nation’s future.

I’ll make my position clear: I believe the UK and eventually an independent Scotland should continue to have a constitutional hereditary monarchy, largely because I utterly fear the alternative of a head of state who is also Prime or First Minister. For in a state which has no written constitution and no Bill of Rights, investing absolute power in a man or woman who has gained office largely by being the biggest shark in the filth-infested political waters is a worrying prospect – try putting the word President in front of the names of Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron and you’ll get my drift.

And the Queen should be succeeded by Prince Charles, the Duke of Rothesay, for that is what our Scottish traditions and Scottish history have given us over the centuries – a lineage which means that the job passes down from sovereign to son or, from Prince William onwards, perhaps to daughter.

I understand the reasons why people want a meritocracy and a democratically-elected head of state, but I fear we would merely get people buying themselves the highest office in the land.

Elizabeth, Queen of Scots, has shown us how to do the job properly. Long may she reign.

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