Many forget that in the months before the 2014 referendum, the long summary of MacCormick vs the Lord Advocate (1953) was quietly reclassified as not to be seen by the general public for another 70 years. John MacCormick and Ian Hamilton lost their case as the ruling stated that the regnant number of a monarch is a matter of royal prerogative which perhaps led the Lord President of the Inner Court, Lord Cooper of Culross, to note: “the principle of unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle and has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law”.
Only the short summary was published and since the UK Government has decided we cannot read in more detail why it was decided that MacCormick and Hamilton did not have title to sue the Crown we are left to speculate which, in itself, can only lead to the claims of merit for a monarchy being lost among other arguments. What is beyond argument is that her official title here in Scotland is not ‘Queen’ but Duchess of Balmoral and that it is by the English convention of royal prerogative alone that Elizabeth gets to be called Queen in Scotland. Given that the mastheads on official government documents were changed subsequent to the ruling, Elizabeth has no right to be officially known as ‘Queen Elizabeth II’ which stands to reason given that Scotland has never previously had a queen by that name.
Why is this quibble about numbers, names, and titles important? Firstly, Elizabeth has reportedly abused conventions extended to the monarch to protect her private property as a private landowner. Secondly, there was no coronation ceremony in Scotland and our monarchs rule only by consent – and constitutionally speaking, it’s been that way for over 700 years. How could we have given consent or indeed, withheld it?
We may not have a parliament at the time but we had a petition.
John MacCormick was no slouch and puts the current leadership of the SNP to shame: despite having resigned from the party in 1942 having failed to persuade the membership to adopt a devolutionist stance, he set up the Scottish Covenant Association in 1951, a non-partisan group which campaigned to secure the establishment of a devolved Scottish Parliament. In 1952, around 2 million Scots journeyed from all around the nation – no small feat in those days – to sign a petition to this effect.
When, on 24 June 1953, Elizabeth deigned to bestow her presence on the Scots, she stopped by Edinburgh long enough to touch the Honours of Scotland – including the oldest royal crown in these islands – with gloved hands (photo above) while wearing daywear and only then, after being repeatedly invited to do so by the Dean of St Giles Cathedral.
Whatever your view of the monarchy, Elizabeth is not going to live forever. But we do now have a parliament and it’s reasonable to suppose that this is the mechanism by which we Scots will be judged to have given our consent to her son when Charles comes to pulling on his mother’s ermine bonnet and coat and looking to call himself Henry IX (because looking at what happened to the first king called Charles, why would you tempt fate?).
When the vote and the requirement for MSPs to take a pledge to an unwanted monarch are required, will there be the representation in their parliament with the numbers – or spine – to say ‘no’ ? Or we will remain trapped in a loveless union, married to a feudal system of rule? As it stands, in the thinking and planning of the London elite, we – and our nation – are as the Roman invaders found our Caledonian forebears: a nothing to be ridden over with contempt.
Continuing reading this series
Res Nullias Part 2 – The Duchess of Nothing