LONDON (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II can keep her magnificent Scottish castle at Balmoral should Scots vote for independence — and chances are she will be able to keep her role as well.
As Thursday’s referendum nears, questions are being been raised about Scotland’s future relationship with the monarchy if its people opt for independence. Although many details remain up in the air — Will the queen’s title change? Will Scotland keep funding the monarchy? — it seems likely that the Scots will keep Elizabeth as their queen.
QUEEN OF SCOTS?
Should the Yes campaign succeed, the signs are that the queen would remain the head of state of an independent Scotland — much in the same way she is the monarch of 15 countries from Jamaica to Canada to the Solomon Islands known as “Commonwealth Realms.”
Elizabeth does not interfere in the governments of those countries but is regularly briefed on their affairs and plays an important ceremonial and symbolic role.
“She’s queen of Australia, Canada — she could be Queen of Scots if the Scots wanted,” said Vernon Bogdanor, a politics professor and constitutional expert at Oxford University.
“The Scots have said they will produce a written constitution, with the queen as head of state. These things work,” he added.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has been consistent in saying that he wanted to keep the queen — and her successors — in that role. This week he said he looked forward to her being “Queen of Scots,” and said there is “substantial” goodwill in Scotland to support that prospect.
Polls have backed that view, though not everyone in the Yes camp agrees. Some politicians, including members of Salmond’s Scottish National Party, have said they prefer to create a republic.
The constitutional details of how an independent Scotland can keep the monarchy — or in a less-likely scenario become a republic — are not yet clear.
Bogdanor said the British government would likely appoint a “governor general’ to represent the queen in an independent Scotland, as has been done in Commonwealth countries. The person in that role would be appointed by the queen on the advice of the British prime minister, he said.
The queen has more Scottish blood than many other British monarchs — her mother came from an ancient aristocratic Scottish family. In addition, her affection for Scotland is well known.
Elizabeth traditionally spends three months each summer at Balmoral Castle, the private Scottish home for the royals since the 1850s. She also spends a week every year at Holyrood Palace, the monarch’s official residence in Edinburgh.
“The queen most definitely has an affinity with Scotland. She has known it from a very early age and it’s very much in her blood,” said Joe Little, managing editor at Majesty magazine.
WHAT DOES THE QUEEN THINK?
The queen is prohibited from taking sides in political debates and rarely makes her personal views public. Her official position, according to royal officials, is strictly impartial and “above politics.”
Accordingly, she has stayed mum on Scotland — though she surprised many when she told well-wishers Sunday that Scots should think “very carefully about the future” before voting.
Those were her first — and only — comments on the issue.
The last time she spoke out in support of the U.K. was in 1977, when she used her Silver Jubilee speech to address calls for power to be devolved to Scotland and Wales. At the time, Elizabeth reminded audiences of the “benefits of union” for all U.K. residents.
Little, at Majesty magazine, believes the queen still holds that view.
“She would very much want the United Kingdom — her kingdom — to stay united,” he said. “She’s very much a traditionalist and would want things to remain as they are.”