Historian backs SNP policy on monarchy

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First Minister Alex Salmond’s decisive policy to forgo a referendum over the future of the monarchy in Scotland has been praised by leading academics as “the right approach”.

Speaking on Newsnight Scotland, Professor of Scottish history Tom Devine said, “The current queen is extremely popular; to add the issue of Republicanism into the current debate on independence, would muddy the waters. 

First Minister Alex Salmond’s decisive policy to forgo a referendum over the future of the monarchy in Scotland has been praised by leading academics as “the right approach”.

Speaking on Newsnight Scotland, Professor of Scottish history Tom Devine said, “The current queen is extremely popular; to add the issue of Republicanism into the current debate on independence, would muddy the waters.  I think they have taken the right approach on this, because you could argue that historically what they’re really saying is they’re abandoning the Union but they’re still retaining the Union of Crowns”.

This week Mr Salmond reiterated his opinion that the monarchy should be kept “in a place which is above and beyond politics”.

The First Minister’s remarks followed a letter written by Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie at the weekend, citing a resolution passed at an SNP conference in 1997 to indicate that the SNP is planning to hold a referendum on the retention of the monarchy. 

Mr, Rennie’s bizarrely timed comments drew significant attention from the mainstream news media; distracting from the important consultation process the SNP is currently undertaking to formulate the Referendum Bill, due to be introduced into the Scottish parliament at the beginning of 2013. 

Speaking to the BBC, the First Minister reminded the Liberal Democrats that policies change, saying: “I think that that was an intelligent change of policy that took place some considerable time ago.” 

An SNP spokeswoman said that Willie Rennie had “blundered by trying to drag Her Majesty into political debate”.  She added: “policies passed by the Liberal Democrat conference in 1997 certainly do not reflect the policies they are pursuing now, in cahoots with the Tories”.

The First Minister has suggested in the past that Scotland would in fact be more confident than England about retaining the Queen as head of State as it takes a different approach to social class. 

Speaking to Prospect magazine Mr Salmond said: “There is a better case for an English republic than a Scottish one”, adding that the Royals don’t define class structure in Scotland as they do in England. 

Glasgow University’s Vice Principal Professor Murray Pittock described Mr Salmond’s Scottish constitutional position as “perfectly respectable”, saying: “He’s looking at the issue of popular sovereignty…all he’s doing is suggesting that Scotland is a different kind of kingdom, a different kind of polity from England”

Mr Salmond has remained clear throughout his tenure as First Minister about where his priorities lie however. 

Upon being sworn into the Scottish Parliament in 2007, and again in 2011 he said: “The Scottish National Party’s primary loyalty is to the people of Scotland, in line with the Scottish constitutional tradition of the sovereignty of the people.”