Friday, 22 May 2015

Power, privilege and allegiance

The remarkable success of the Scottish National Party at the UK Election has changed Scottish politics for ever.  In fact, it may be that the reverberations emanating from the political earthquake of May 7th will result in a very different United Kingdom.

Of course, left to the BBC – the official propagandist of the British State – you wouldn’t notice things had changed.

The SNP, with 56 MPs, is now the third-largest political group in the House of Commons.  However, on its first Question Time programme since new MPs were sworn-in (May 21st), it was business as usual for the BBC.  The SNP was not represented on the panel of politicians and pundits, but there was one MP each from the three ‘main’ parties – Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat.   The Lib Dems now have just 8 MPs across the whole of the UK, but the new political reality in Britain does not appear to have registered with the BBC.

Ironically, Question Time, seen as the BBC’s flagship political programme, is listed as being made by BBC Scotland.  The cost of making the programme is taken from BBC Scotland’s funding, even though Scottish towns and cities are rarely used as locations, and even though content often relates to issues that have little relevance to Scotland – the English NHS, UKIP, English education, UKIP, immigration, UKIP, English transport, UKIP.

The three ‘main’ political parties in the UK are now Conservative, Labour and SNP: let’s see how long it takes for the BBC to notice.

Last week’s swearing-in of MPs – including the 56 from the SNP – illustrated, yet again, the deeply undemocratic core of the British State.  Every person democratically-elected by the people to serve in the House of Commons had to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen before being allowed to take their seat.

I’ve experienced that situation myself, because the same procedure applies to the Scottish Parliament.

The swearing-in of MSPs is a classic example of how all-pervading is the influence of the British establishment, and how the monarchy is not the benign entity we are told it is.  Despite being elected to parliament by the people of Scotland, MSPs are required to swear an oath of allegiance to ‘Her Majesty the Queen, her heirs and successors’.  Any MSP who holds republican views and declines to swear the oath of allegiance to an unelected monarch is barred from taking their seat in parliament.

I was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2003 and, like other republican MSPs, I prefaced my oath-taking by stating my allegiance was to the people of Scotland, and therefore I took the oath under protest.  Basically, I let them know I didn’t mean a word of the oath I subsequently took.

Think about that: in a supposed democracy, where candidates have been elected by the people, those newly-elected MSPs would be barred from office if they did not swear allegiance to a London-based monarch who considers the people of Scotland to be her subjects.  There is no debating the point: no oath of allegiance to the Queen (and her hangers-on), no seat in the Scottish Parliament.

The monarchy, and forcing people to swear allegiance to someone and something in which they do not believe, are anachronisms: there is no place for such things in a modern, democratic country.

Of course, not all of the SNP’s 56 MPs would have a problem swearing allegiance to a hereditary monarch.  After all, the SNP is not, and never has been a republican party.

The SNP’s position is that the Queen would remain Head of State in an independent Scotland.  Under current policy, the monarch’s heirs would succeed her in Scotland’s top constitutional role.

However, there is provision within SNP policy for a referendum to be held, at an unspecified time in the future – and if desired by the people – to decide whether or not Scotland should remain a monarchy or become a republic.

Back in 2003, when I was forced to lie and take an oath of allegiance to the Queen, I was part of an SNP Group of 27 MSPs: just 12 of us prefaced our oath-taking with a statement indicating our allegiance was actually not to the Queen but was, instead, to the people of Scotland.

So, does it really matter that our elected representatives are forced to swear an oath of allegiance to an unelected monarch – or to give her the full title she bears, “Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith”?

I believe it matters very much.  I despise the elitist idea of monarchy.  I believe there can be no place in a democratic society for an unelected, hereditary Head of State who owes their position of privilege to nothing more than the fact their ancestors were the biggest murdering rogues of their time.

I cannot begin to imagine why one human being would obsequiously bow or curtsy to another, nor why someone would expect others to kowtow to them in such a manner.

In a country where people’s lives are being devastated by unemployment, poverty and deprivation, I believe it is an obscenity that one family, whose members are already multi-millionaires, continue to live extremely cosseted lives funded from the public purse.

I feel no personal ill-will towards Mrs Windsor and her family: I don’t know them, so it would be irrational to have any personal animosity towards them.  However, I can find no logical argument for why I should be forced to contribute financially to the Queen and her family enjoying a lifestyle of privilege, opulence, palaces and worldwide first-class travel.

Actually, lavish public funding of one particular family while hundreds-of-thousands live below the poverty-line is just one aspect of my objection to the concept of hereditary monarchy.  Another is the line we are spun that tells us the Queen and the royal family are simply benign figure-heads.  In fact, the Queen is the pinnacle of a British establishment that comprises a small elite group of faceless bureaucrats, civil servants, senior military personnel and members of the royal household.

It is this British establishment that holds ultimate power across the United Kingdom, and it is this reality that results in those we democratically elect to represent us in the UK and Scottish Parliaments having to swear allegiance, not to us, but to an unelected person living in a palace in London.

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