George Osborne’s suggestion, echoed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, that an independent Scotland could not be part of a ‘Sterling Zone’ and share the pound, seems a spectacular own-goal for the ‘No’ campaign. It is astonishing that Unionist politicians think that they can still get away with threatening the people of Scotland, when the reality is that the post-independence arrangements of an independent Scotland would have to be reached in a treaty with England whose text has not yet been written. It seems highly likely that, in such an eventuality, England would not want to distance itself any more than it needs to from an independent Scotland; one obvious way to retain ties between the two states, and thus preserve Britain’s international reputation, would be to retain a single currency. The current approach of the ‘No’ campaign is to tell Scots what they cannot have in case of independence; a more alienating strategy it would be hard to invent. Perhaps the SNP has infiltrated the ‘No’ campaign and is directing policy?! Unless the ‘No’ campaign adopts a positive message soon, I am not sure that the result of the referendum will be as clear-cut as they should like.
However, the SNP must surely share some of the blame for the current strategy of the ‘No’ campaign, which is likely to frighten some would-be pro-independence voters, because the SNP’s vision of independence does make it a frightening prospect. The idea that Scotland will be able to erect institutions of state such as an army and a civil service overnight is absurd and, as I have already outlined, a pro-independence strategy with a far higher chance of success would emphasise the ways in which an independent Scotland remains part of the country of Great Britain. If the SNP Government were to adopt such an approach, it would disarm the ‘No’ campaign completely. Admittedly, such a u-turn in policy would be damaging to the SNP so close to the referendum, but that does not mean that different models for an independent Scotland cannot emerge from the ‘Yes’ campaign. I am troubled by the fact that the ‘Yes’ campaign is primarily a party-political issue in Scotland; whilst there are pro-independence members of the Scottish Labour Party, it seems that the SNP alone is setting the agenda for independence. But an independent Scotland is not about the SNP; it is about the future of a multiparty Scotland.
The Daily Telegraph, a paper that I used to read devoutly but had to give up on because I found its smug Unionism unbearable, has recently suggested that an independent Scotland might not be permitted to retain the Queen as Head of State. The suggestion is that the Prime Minister might advise the Queen not to become Head of State of an independent Scotland. This seems unlikely, given that the Queen is the Head of State of the other Commonwealth Realms, and it would be odd for David Cameron to advise the Queen not to become Head of State of, for instance, an independent Quebec that had seceded from Canada. The article in question goes on to suggest that Scotland might be forced to restore the House of Stuart in the form of the Duke of Bavaria or, indeed, the Duchess of Alba. The latter would, of course, be excluded from the succession as the descendent of an illegitimate son of James II (the Duke of Berwick), although the Duchess could well be recognised as a native peer in an independent Scotland, as indeed could all inheritors of Jacobite peerages (in the Peerage of Scotland anyway). The really interesting question, which The Telegraph fails to raise, is whether the Parliament of an independent Scotland would have to pass legislation on the royal succession before it could have a Head of State at all. The pre-1707 Scottish Parliament never passed its own version of England’s 1701 Act of Settlement, which made the House of Hanover the heirs of Queen Anne. Thus, if the Parliament of an independent Scotland were regarded as a direct continuation of the pre-1707 Parliament, it would need to pass an Act declaring Elizabeth II Queen of Scots. Otherwise, the Scottish Crown would automatically revert to the Duke of Bavaria. However, on another interpretation, English common law requires that the monarch should be born on English territory, suggesting that James III and VIII was the last Jacobite monarch, and was succeeded in 1766 by George III as de jure King. But it is far from clear whether this principle of ‘English common law’ applies to Scotland.