Non-story story

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WHAT a curious “non-story” Sir Alan Reid’s remarks to parliament turned out to be (your report, 25 June). The Keeper of the Privy Purse raised concerns about devolving income from the Scottish Crown Estates to Holyrood next year, fearing the SNP might hold back some of the Royal Family’s state benefits.

The press seized upon his remarks to allege this was the start of a republican insurrection by the SNP.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon then flew into the fray to stamp on the idea saying: “This story has no basis in fact. By hook or by crook Scotland will pay our contribution [to the Sovereign Grant] in full and on time.”

Sir Alan is apparently no longer worried. “Move on there is nothing to see here”, insisted SNP strategist Stephen Noon on Twitter.

But hold on a minute. There seems to be a great deal of tension in the SNP about this “non-story”. Why else would the First Minister herself be brought into to deal with it?

After all any SNP minister could have pointed out that under the “No detriment principle” enshrined in all devolution settlements the UK Treasury must be reimbursed for any extra income accruing to Holyrood from any new powers.

So any money received from the Scottish Crown Estates from next year will automatically be deducted from the block grant determined by the Barnett formula.

Why would the SNP keep a penny when there is clearly no advantage to do so. That’s the primary reason Sir Alan’s fears are unfounded.

Yet the SNP’s response says a great deal about its own nervousness over the issue of Britain’s unelected, unaccountable and anachronistic head of state. They are aware a large proportion of Scottish voters wish to replace the hereditary monarch with an elected head of state, a notion the SNP rejects.

The Nationalists’ political calculation here is that those who favour a modern, democratic republic are not as exercised on the issue as the monarchists who wish to conserve this anachronism. And their response to Sir Alan’s concern is a measure of the vulnerability they feel on this most fundamental of questions.

Colin Fox

Scottish Socialist Party

Alloway Loan, Edinburgh