How the Queen will help see off Scottish independence

Tim Walker – May 19, 2011

After building bridges on her historic state visit to Ireland, the Queen may be asked to use her influence to head off moves for Scottish independence.

My man in Whitehall says the monarch’s warm relationship with Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, could prove a decisive card for Downing Street to play in maintaining the union after the SNP’s landslide win in the Scottish elections.

The SNP is committed to holding a referendum on independence and the Queen would be dismayed – every bit as much as David Cameron – to see any parting of the ways between Scotland and the rest of the kingdom.

“I would say that the Queen is probably as close to Salmond as she is to any current politician, not least because of their shared passion for horses,” I am told. “She was close, too, to the late Robin Cook for precisely the same reason.”

Angus MacNeil, Salmond’s fellow Scots Nationalist, once joked that, after the Queen had met with his boss on several occasions over a six-month period, that seldom, if ever, had two people travelled so far to “exchange racing tips”.

A courtier tells me that the Queen is always wary of involving herself in political issues. “She would, of course, accept the will of the people in Scotland on this issue, but the union is obviously important to her,” he says. “I have no doubt that, if asked, she would be happy to offer her advice.”

The SNP leader has already been at pains to stress that an independent Scotland would retain the Queen as its head of state.


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