Skip to content

In Right of the Crown?

By Sarah Salyers

While ‘the nation mourned’ the death of Queen Elizabeth, officially anyway, Scotland had its own reason for mourning. Along with the mortal remains of Elizabeth Windsor, the establishment buried a permanent and crucially important constitutional settlement beneath an entirely English pageant representing an entirely English, constitutional monarchy.

There are, in fact, two UK Crowns, physically as well as constitutionally, which is why we have a separate, Scottish Crown Estate Office. And the constitutional reason for the separate Crown Estates is the irreconcilable characters of the Scottish and English Crowns.

Any kingdom is a territory, as well as a people, ruled by a monarch. But, crucially, a kingdom may also be described as an area of land held by, and depending on the existence of a Crown. A Crown is not only a monarch. It is a constitutional institution whose character will vary from nation to nation and is distinct from the individual who ‘wears’ it. It encompasses territorial, judicial, political and economic authority, what we call ‘sovereignty’, the final and absolute authority of any nation as well as ‘ownership’ of the land and its resources.

The Scottish Crown is widely believed to have disappeared at the Treaty of Union, a belief deliberately fostered by the British establishment. It did not could not.

Even more widespread is the belief that the Crown, Scottish or English, hardly matters in the modern world. This could not be more wrong.

The Crown as an institution still determines the source of power and the ultimate control of, well, pretty much everything. The one on display, the only one ever spoken about in the public domain, the one everyone is familiar with and that has been used as the basis for legislation applied in Scotland, as well as the rest of the UK, is the English Crown institution. Let’s repeat that to be very clear: it is the English institution of the Crown which works in the following way:

Conventional feudal theory and practice was based (in England and elsewhere) on the premise that a kingdom was first and foremost a feudal entity and, in that sense, the property of its king or queen.1

The origin of the ‘Crown Estate’ is in 1066. After the Norman Conquest, all land belonged to the King and despite changes since then, there is still a presumption that land is owned by the Crown unless there is evidence to prove otherwise. Crown land is managed on behalf of the government by the Crown Estate, which must now be managed by a Board who have a duty to maintain and enhance the estate using good management techniques.2

“Crown interest” means an interest belonging to Her Majesty in right of the Crown or belonging to a government department or held in trust for Her Majesty for the purposes of a government department.3

In summary, the English Crown Estate and the English ‘right of the Crown’ derives from the character of the monarchy in 1066. The kingdom of England, the land, and the assets held by the English Crown was and remains a feudal entity, the property of its king or queen. Political and economic sovereignty were removed from the monarch by the English Convention of 1689 and reassigned to the English Parliament. Ownership and control of the territory and its assets remain, in principle, the property of the monarch, managed by the English government through its various offices and department.

The Scottish Crown is very different indeed.

In Scotland’s feudal system, this situation was radically tempered by the Crown’s status as representative of the Community of the Realm which vested that ‘ownership’ in the sovereignty of the people 4.

This distinct identity was not affected by the Union of Crowns in 1603 and has continued since the Treaty of Union in 1707 when Scotland ceased to be an independent state but continued to be a sovereign territorial nation 5.

To put it simply, the institution of the Crown in Scotland represents the people of the nation rather than an individual. In turn, any monarch in Scotland has always and only represented that Crown, not ‘embodied’ it, as in England. He or she ruled, not by ‘divine right’ or feudal entitlement, but by the consent of the people, who could withdraw that consent and, therefore, remove the power to govern. The sovereign authority and the Crown of Scotland is the nation, the people, itself.

Therefore, the common folk and people of the aforesaid kingdom of Scotland, worn out as it is by the stings of many tribulations ….. agreed on the said Lord Robert, the present king.Declaration of the Clergy 1309

Yet if he should give up what he has begun, seeking to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own right and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King… Declaration of Arbroath 1320

Therefor the Estates of the kingdom of Scotland Find and Declaire That King James the Seventh being a profest papist Did assume the Regall power and acted as king without ever takeing the oath required by law and hath by the advyce of Evill and wicked Counsellors Invaded the fundamentall Constitution of the Kingdome and altered it from a legall limited monarchy To ane arbitrary despotick power wherby he hath forfaulted the right to the Croune and the throne is become vacant Claim of Right Act 1689

To ‘bestow’ or remove kingship, to hold the authority to grant or remove the power to govern is sovereignty. This is vested in the Crown in Scotland, as it was and in England, but in a Crown that is the people, ‘the common folk’ as much as the titled or ennobled.

The constitutional character of the Scottish Crown was something that no monarch had or has the authority to alter. The Treaty of Union gave Queen Anne no special, new power to change the institution she inherited from Kenneth McAlpine. The Scottish parliament did not suddenly become a copy of the English, its members ‘custodians’ of the sovereignty of the people, (with the power to take it away to Westminster). Neither monarch nor parliament possessed the sovereignty of the Crown which we are told, today, somehow passed to the new, UK Parliament in 1707. But you can’t sell or lease a house you don’t own, however and they did not own either ‘sovereignty or the ‘right of the Crown’ in Scotland to negotiate away. The British state has dealt with the problem by pretending it doesn’t exist, by burying it. But buried or not, the Scottish Crown, sovereignty of the people and over the territory, remains. Because here is no lawful way to remove it.

So it stands and it follows that, ‘in right of the Scottish Crown’ is something quite different from the English version. And, of course, it is something we hear absolutely nothing about, notwithstanding the two separate Crown Estate Offices. Notwithstanding the territorial sovereignty of the Scottish nation. Notwithstanding the need for separate arrangements for the administration of what actually belongs to the people of Scotland, the assets of this land energy, minerals, water – and even that controversial Stone of Destiny! Everything done in the UK ‘in right of the Crown’ is, in fact, done almost entirely in right of the English Crown. It is as if the Scottish Crown did not still exist at all.

This is a glaring example of the gaslighting of Scotland by the British establishment. Behind it lies an incontrovertible and, for that establishment, extremely dangerous fact. It was dangerous enough to impose English treason law in Scotland in 1708, breaching the Treaty of Union. It was dangerous enough to convince Westminster to phrase the first petroleum extraction act, which applied almost entirely Scotland’s oil and gas act in English terms:

An Act to vest in the Crown the property in petroleum and natural gas within Great Britain and to make provision with respect to the searching and boring for and getting of petroleum and natural gas, and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid. [12th July 1934.]

1 Vesting of property in petroleum in His Majesty

(1) The property in petroleum existing in its natural condition in strata in Great Britain is hereby vested in His Majesty, and His Majesty shall have the exclusive right of searching and boring for and getting such petroleum.7

Of course, Scottish oil and gas cannot be lawfully vested in ‘His Majesty’ or ‘Her Majesty’ or any government on the majesty’s behalf, whatever Westminster decrees – a precarious constitutional position for a British state that is heavily dependent on Scotland’s assets for its revenue. Something only bluff and gaslighting has disguised.

But the continuance of the Scottish Crown is not just dangerous because it makes the people the legal owners of Scotland’s territorial assets: when the ‘head of state’, (the Crown), is not the monarch but ‘the community of the realm’ (as represented by the monarch), then the security of the state, the power of the state and the interests of the state can never mean the security, the power and the interests of a ruling elite, of corporations or a privileged class. When the head of state is the nation, the people, then the security, power and interests of the state are quite simply those of the people as whole. Think about that when it comes to ‘exceptional measures’, imprisoning journalists or c losing down protests for the ‘security of the (English) state!

In fact, in right of the Scottish Crown not only sets Scotland apart from the rest of the UK it is a major constitutional lever if we are willing to recognise and use it, to break Westminster control of Scotland. We could start ‘small’. We could start by pointing out that it’s precisely ‘in right of the Crown’, that the people of Scotland are entitled to decide whether the Stone of Destiny, (ours even if its just a cludgie stane from Scone monastery!), should go to London to legitimise the coronation of Charles III – or not.

1 R Callander ‘How Scotland is Owned’ pp. 45 – 46 (Canongate, 1998)
2 British Geological Survey, Legislation & policy: mineral ownership, Mineral ownership in the UK, 
3 “Promoting Development in Scotland” Crown Estates Commission 1998
4 R Callander ‘How Scotland is Owned’ pp. 45 – 46 (Canongate, 1998)
5 The Land of Scotland and the Common Good, Report of the Land Reform Review Group, May 2014, Section 1 – Land of Scotland, (Land Reform Review Group Secretariat)
6 Note that this was not the Parliament but the Convention of the Estates. Largely elected for the purpose and separate from government which was the ‘king (or queen) in parliament’
7 Petroleum (Production) Act 1934 CHAPTER 36
Cookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner