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By Royal appointment

Brian Taylor | 17:13 UK time, Thursday, 24 May 2007

“Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?

I’ve been up to London to look at the Queen.”

Only this time, it was the Queen who made the journey to look at - or, more accurately, grant an audience to - Scotland’s new first minister, Alex Salmond.

Her Majesty is in Holyrood (Palace not Parliament) this evening for the event.

Mr Salmond popped down the hill from St Andrews House.

The British regal State has had to absorb a few shocks down the centuries.

Think of this one: The Queen is meeting a head of (devolved) government who is committed to ending the Union between Scotland and England.

The political Union, mind. It is the 1707 Treaty that would be repealed.

Alex Salmond has taken considerable pains to stress that the SNP would sustain the regal Union of 1603 - when King James VI of Scotland ascended the English throne.

Still, Scottish self-government and monarchy have had their tense moments.

In 1977, during her Silver Jubilee, the Queen stressed the benefits of Union.

Remember this was in the run-up to proposed devolution in Scotland and Wales.

Acknowledging her Scots, Welsh and English antecedents, Her Majesty continued: “I cannot forget that I was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland."

That was interpreted, rightly, as a sentiment of disquiet with devolution.

Much later, after the Scottish Parliament had finally arrived, Her Majesty was to speak with approval of the “unity based on diversity” which devolution represented.

That’s called adapting to circumstance.

Still, though, it was in the context of “strengthening the bonds” within the UK.

Alex Salmond brings a new dimension. He wants, he says, to sustain and strengthen the “social union” between Scotland and England.

He defends the regal union. But he wants, ultimately, to end the political union, to repeal the Act of Union.

Addressing the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland last week, the Duke of York, the Queen’s second son, said that the election of an SNP government had “rattled the timbers” of the Union.

Mr Salmond said these were “good natured remarks.”

Maybe so - but you can bet that events in Scotland are being assessed extremely carefully in terms of their impact on both the political and the regal union.

PS: A newspaper diary suggested that Alex Salmond had demonstrated a rebellious streak by merely nodding - instead of speaking - when the Loyal Oath was adminstered in the Court of Session as he became FM.

Sorry and all that - but the participants in such Court ceremonies only ever nod.

They have done so down the decades.

Alex Salmond wasn’t rebelling: He was complying.


  • 1.
  • At 06:29 PM on 24 May 2007,
  • derek barker wrote:

The old meets the new.The powerful meets the powerless.Will the Queen lecture A.S on the success of the U.K. in the godly commonwealth.Will A.S. argue for the act of settlement to be repealed,"WHAT WILL THE OUTCOME BE"in all probability the young pretender will act as a polite subject,who seeks approval to form a devolved government,stop kinding the public Alex and do a deal.4 years or 8 years is hardly likely to make a dent in the 1707 treaty.

  • 2.
  • At 08:07 PM on 24 May 2007,
  • James wrote:

Dear Brian,

This might be a little off topic, but I was just thinking about a particular scenario that could potentially emerge within the Scottish Parliament.

Say an SNP MSP dies in office and there is a by-election and Labour go on to win that election, what would happen. Would Alex Salmond still be FM until the end of his mandate, would the Labour leader become FM, would there be a general election, or what? If you could explain this outcome of this situation, I would be extremely interested to hear what you have to say.



  • 3.
  • At 09:53 PM on 24 May 2007,
  • sacrebleu wrote:

[PS: A newspaper diary suggested that Alex Salmond had demonstrated a rebellious streak.. ]

Don't the newspapers just love getting the boot into the Nats?

The pre-election coverage by the tabloids was a complete disgrace - warning of dire consequences of voting SNP. So just how out of touch does the result make them in terms of their readerships' views?

It's worth noting that James VI 'ascended' to the English throne and never returned to Scotland. His only major consideration of Scotland was to ensure Highland chieftains' sons got Anglicised.


  • 5.
  • At 09:07 AM on 25 May 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Thank you for the addendum about the Court swearing-in, Brian. I had wondered why there was no vocal response. I was intrigued that no female Senators of the College of Justice attended that ceremony -- or perhaps they did and were out of shot. Otherwise it presented Scotland's highest judicial ranks as rather bland: male, elderly, upper middle-class. Having said that, given Lady Clark of Calton's status as a Labour peer and judge she perhaps wisely missed out!

  • 6.
  • At 09:26 AM on 25 May 2007,
  • Peter Thomson wrote:

Do you think HM asked Wee Eck for information on the horses?

"10 quid each way on number 20 in the 3:30 at Doncaster looks a goodie, your Majesty."

"Thanks." says HM while thinking that for the first time in ages she has someone useful as First Minister,"We are pleased to see you are not wearing a naff kilt......"

  • 7.
  • At 09:40 AM on 25 May 2007,
  • Matthew wrote:

Hi Brian,

As I am based in England and no longer get to see Scottish news I miss the opportunity to keep up with developments at Holyrood so I think your blog is a great idea. I was wondering if you could confirm what it would mean for Scotland to become independent but to retain the Union of the Crowns. Would an independent Scotland (a la Alex Salmond)automatically become a the Kingdom of Scotland, and subsequently a member of the Commonwealth, or would it be more complicated than that?

  • 8.
  • At 10:08 AM on 25 May 2007,
  • EG (Scotland) wrote:

"Rattled the timbers" - that has to be a good thing. If we are to move forward as a modern nation we have to challenge some of the things from the past. We don't need to discard everything but nor should we keep things just for the sake of it.


So the Queen has had the time to come and see the new FM but Blair hasn't even made a 30 second phone call yet? Just show's that position can't buy class.

  • 10.
  • At 10:27 AM on 25 May 2007,
  • Jonathan wrote:

Brian - Are the SNP not committed to a referendum on the monarchy in an independent Scotland?

The servility encapsulated by a bow, or a nod, to such outdated instituitions is not particularly attractive.

  • 11.
  • At 10:33 AM on 25 May 2007,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

Is it just cynical old me or do I note that those who advise the Queen of her every step were recently driven with the purpose of avoiding conflict?
If as you stated in your nursery rhyme reference Alex Salmond was summoned / invited to London could we or the Queen’s advisers safely have predicted the outcome?
The Queen’s advisors apparently have opted for a ‘middle ground’ option insomuch as the Queen has come ‘half way’ to Holyrood in acknowledgement of Alex Salmond’s ‘differing status’ to Jack McConnell.

“..Mr McConnell receives the warrant from the Queen: Scotland's First Minister-elect, Jack McConnell, has received the Royal warrant at Buckingham Palace.
26 November, 2001…”

“…Mr McConnell, who was voted first minister by MSPs in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, spent 20 minutes with the Queen at Windsor Castle. Monday, 19 May, 2003…”

I’m sure this will be countered with a ‘long standing arrangement,’ oh well, back to my cynical research.

  • 12.
  • At 11:32 AM on 25 May 2007,
  • Stewart wrote:

Comment 2
I think what would happen is the following

Labour would initiate a vote of no confidence in the hope that they could get it passsed , if they could - would need support of Torys or Libs - highly unlikly

If it passed , there would another vote for FM but the likly event unless Libs did a coalition would be that Labour would have 47 votes and the SNP Greens would have 48
I think Alex SAAlmond is FM for 4 years unless some thing really conspires against him.

  • 13.
  • At 11:34 AM on 25 May 2007,
  • Andy from Shetland wrote:

I wonder is Alex addressed her as Queen Liz the second, or Queen Liz the first ;-)

[Say an SNP MSP dies in office and there is a by-election and Labour go on to win that election, what would happen. Would Alex Salmond still be FM until the end of his mandate, would the Labour leader become FM, would there be a general election, or what] - James

In the scenario you describe, the SNP would have 46 MSPs and Labour 47. But the SNP-Green not-a-coalition would still have 48, so Alex Salmond would still be First Minister.

  • 15.
  • At 12:56 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Paul Marshall wrote:

#12 Ah but then the Lib Dems might re-join with Labour in coalition, as they refused to do so as Labour didn't have a majority and would be against the voice of the people. It would be interesting as to what would happen in that scenario.

  • 16.
  • At 01:02 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Stuart M wrote:

I am Scottish and a advocat of Scottish independance, so I would be thrilled at a call for a referendum. I wish Alex Salmon all the success in this process. But forgive me for writing I would be equally annoyed at getting that far, becoming independant and then inherit the Queen of England as head of state.

I think in that case we should either abolish the monarchy in Scotland or follow the genealogy and find a decendant of the Scottish Crown. Now that would be a spectale!

  • 17.
  • At 02:54 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Liam wrote:

Brian, I have to say I enjoy the blog. It's interesting to read your thoughts regarding the going's on at Holyrood.

With regards to point number 4. James did return to Scotland in 1616 in order to impement changes to the Kirk. He was also very proud of being Scottish. We as a nation should be proud of him, as he was enlightened and politically ahead of his time.

And in response to number 16. Our current Queen is technically a descendant of James. The hanoverian line was descended from James' daughter who married the elector of Palatine.

Liam (17),

Thanks for the correction. It makes me wonder if James was as proud of being Scottish as are all the ex-patriots who choose to live furth of Scotland ;-)

How long did he stay on his return, or was it simply a brief visit?


  • 19.
  • At 05:19 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • sven wrote:

With regard to Liam (17), I recall that Jonathan Swift, in one of his appendices to 'Tale of a Tub', writes about King James, 'who oftimes beshit himself, even when there was no danger.'

But I haven't been able to find the word 'beshit' in the dictionary. Anybody know about its useage? and when the word left the English language?

  • 20.
  • At 08:53 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Math Campbell wrote:

Ah... but!
Not the direct descendant. This is part of the reason Scotland got subjugated in the first place. Chances are, the Union wouldn't have lasted long, had it not been for the 1715 and '45 uprising's. After Culloden, things were very very different in Scottish politics.

  • 21.
  • At 11:20 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Paul Marshall wrote:

#16 If it helps, the Scottish Crown inherited the English one. Ergo, if it makes you feel better, we are better than them.

In addition, Brenda is Queen of 16 sovereign states, not solely England (and in any case she isn't even Queen of England (as England isn't a sovereign state!). She is Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 'round these parts whether you like it or not.

Am I right in saying the SNP are happy for Brenda to remain Monarch of Scotland? Well, as long as us supposed 'crushed rebellious Scots' say so.

Re: the numbering issue. Future British monarchs will be numbered according to either English or Scottish predecessors, whichever number is higher. (It was the PM at the time that said so, none other than Churchill himself!). So here is to the next King Malcolm V!

  • 22.
  • At 02:32 AM on 28 May 2007,
  • Stewart Grant wrote:

So the Queen has had the time to come and see the new FM but Blair hasn't even made a 30 second phone call yet? Just show's that position can't buy class. >

Yes, the news that Mr Blair has not bothered in 2 weeks to communicate with the new First Minister, let alone to congratulate him on his taking office, is an insult not only to Mr Salmond but to Scotland in general.

Sour grapes ? You bet !

And it's an even more glaring omission after his much publicised presence at the inauguration of the new Northern Irish assembly.

Let's hope Gordon Brown shoes more manners and more good sense in his future dealings with the Scottish Executive.

  • 23.
  • At 03:07 PM on 28 May 2007,
  • AT wrote:

20. The queen *is* a direct descendent of James VI; it's just that she's not a direct descendent of Charles I (which I think is what you mean), i.e., the heir by male primogeniture. That, currently, is the Duke of Bavaria.

  • 24.
  • At 04:07 PM on 28 May 2007,
  • sven wrote:

In response to Paul Marshall (21).

Or why not simply multiply the two numbers together and then take the square root? Then we have Queen Elizabeth 1.41421356

Alternatively, the monarchs could be numbered in the same way as the latest version of Netscape.

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