Scottish independence: Call for vote on monarchy

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their newborn son Prince George on Tuesday. Picture: Getty
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their newborn son Prince George on Tuesday. Picture: Getty
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THE chairman of the Yes campaign has reopened the debate about the future of the monarchy by declaring that Prince George should never be king of an independent Scotland.

Just six days after the birth of the third in line to the UK throne, former Labour MP Dennis Canavan said that if Scotland votes Yes next year a national referendum should be held on who will be head of state.

Dennis Canavan: 'affront to democracy'. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Dennis Canavan: 'affront to democracy'. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Canavan, who insisted he was speaking in a personal cap­acity, said that the hereditary principle was an “affront” to democracy in the 21st ­century.

His views reveal clear divisions between some in the pro-independence movement and the SNP leadership, which backs the retention of the Queen as head of state even if Scotland votes to leave the rest of the UK and become an independent nation.

Speaking to Scotland on Sunday, Canavan, the chairman of the Yes campaign’s advisory board and a former Lab­our MP and MSP, said: “The birth of a baby is a great occasion for any family, and I congratulate the Royal Family on this happy event.”

He added: “As to the possibility of another King George, it is important to remember that true democracy is based on the sovereignty of the 
people rather than the sovereignty of any monarch.

“In an independent Scotland, the people of Scotland should therefore be given an early opportunity to decide whether they want to retain the monarchy or choose an elected head of state.

“Personally, I favour the latter option, because a hereditary head of state is an affront to democracy and a complete anachronism in a modern 21st century democracy.”

Canavan’s support for an elected head of state is also backed by other members of the pro-independence movement such as the Green and Scottish Socialist parties.

The Scottish Labour for ­Independence campaign – which held its first policy conference yesterday – also said it backed a referendum on the monarchy.

Allan Grogan, the group’s founder, said: “We believe it is such a big issue it would go down to a referendum after an independence vote.”

The SNP previously also backed a referendum on the monarchy after a Yes vote, but the party leadership reversed the policy in 2007 to woo 
pro-monarchists to the independence cause.

Polls suggest that the population in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, supports a monarchy over an elected head of state by a margin of four to one, indicating that if a referendum were held the public would back the Royal Family.

Pro-republican figures added last night that while many wanted a referendum on the monarchy, they did not believe it should be considered as a matter of urgency out of respect for the Queen if voters backed independence next September.

Repeating the SNP stance last night, a spokesman pointed to the party’s 2007 document on independence which states that “the current parliamentary and political union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would become a monarchical and social union – United Kingdoms rather than a United Kingdom – maintaining a relationship first forged in 1603 by the Union of the Crowns”.

The spokesman added: “The policy of the SNP and Scottish Government is clear that the Queen will be head of state in an independent Scotland as part of a continuing social union with the rest of the UK – that will be the position if Scotland votes Yes, and indeed all of the main parties in Scotland support the Queen as our head of state.”

On its own position in response to Canavan’s comments, a spokesman for Yes Scotland said: “Scotland is currently a monarchy and will remain so until the people of Scotland decide otherwise.”

However, a spokesman for the pro-UK Better Together campaign said: “It’s almost as if the Yes campaign is going out of its way to go against popular opinion in Scotland. Alex Salmond can try and kid people on that the SNP support the monarchy but Dennis Canavan represents the true views of the Nationalists.”

No member of the monarchy has so far spoken publicly about the referendum debate.

However, opening the Scottish Parliament in 2011 after the Scottish National Party’s landslide victory that triggered the referendum, the Queen told MSPs that “in return for the authority placed upon you, a very
great deal is asked of Scotland’s elected politicians – perhaps as much now as ever before”.