Lorna Slater: Coronation “It’s easy to see why so many are turning off.”

Friday May 5th 2023


Lorna Slater, Scottish Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lothian MSP and Scottish Greens co-leader writes her monthly column for Midlothian View.

On Saturday, while the King is crowned to a backdrop of pomp, pageantry and mythology, I will be proud to join and address a rally for a republic on Calton Hill in Edinburgh.

It will certainly be a contrast. They will have £100 million worth of trappings and indulgence, as well as the world’s media. Our protest will have far less luxuries, but it will be a positive and passionate gathering and an important opportunity for people to come together based on a shared commitment to equality and democracy.

We are far from the only ones. All across the country there is widespread disinterest in the whole Royal spectacle. A growing number of people are becoming increasingly disillusioned with an archaic and undemocratic monarchy system.

That’s why, despite the round-the-clock coverage, polling by YouGov shows that almost three quarters of people in Scotland have no interest in watching any of it.

It’s easy to see why so many are turning off. We are in the worst cost of living crisis for decades. There are far too many people who have far too little, and the prospect of tens of millions of pounds being spent on a weekend of lavish celebrations and extravagant golden carriages feels even more distasteful.

Is this really the time for an unelected ruler to be paraded through London, flaunting his wealth and privilege to a public that is struggling with sky high inflation, soaring interest rates and ever increasing food prices?

It’s such a stark contrast with the way that heads of state operate in so many of our neighbouring countries. If we were to look to Europe, we wouldn’t have to look far to find small independent countries with elected heads of state that operating on a far more modest basis.

But the debate we need to have is not really about the optics or the mind-boggling cost of the occasion. Nor is it even about the cast of characters involved. Even if Monarchy was fronted by the most wonderful people, and even if it cost us nothing at all, that would still not come close to justifying its role.

Fundamentally, for me, it is a question of power, accountability and the future we want for our country. Do we really want to be a country where children grow up knowing that due to the family they were born into they will always be excluded from the highest offices and the corridors of power?

The royal family does not exist as the quaint, benevolent and apolitical institution that we are often told it is.

On the contrary, one of the first things I had to do on my election was swear allegiance to the Queen and all of her heirs and successors

For many, its historical associations are deeply political and are associated with a long and brutal legacy of empire and entrenched inequality.

It is impossible to tell the full story of the monarchy without delving into some of the most shocking and shameful themes and periods in our history.

We may know more than ever about their inner workings, but the institution has used its position to avoid transparency. It has lobbied hard to preserve an unequal status quo and exemption from laws that the rest of us are expected to follow.

Is this really the best form of government? The Scotland that I want to build isn’t one of kings and queens. It is one where power lies with the people rather than being passed down as an undemocratic inheritance.

We can have an elected head of state with a democratic mandate, one that is accountable to the people and subject to the same laws as all of us. We are citizens and not subjects. Our head of state should pledge their allegiance to the people rather than asking us to do it for them.

This is the future I want to see for Scotland and the future I will be calling for at the rally on Calton hill this weekend. Join me from 3pm.

All over the Commonwealth there are people and parliaments having these debates and reconsidering their relationship with Monarchy. It is time for Scotland to do the same.

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