Downing Street, we are told, wants to ‘re-set’ the relationship between Westminster and Holyrood after the referendum. UK ministers apparently want an atmosphere of ‘co-operation; to exist between the two governments.
Well, that’s great but it only seems to be going one way. Just take a look at what Nicola Sturgeon has decided to do over the funding over the Royal Family. Under the Smith Commission proposals, Scotland is going to get control over all Crown Estate assets north of the border. At the moment, the Crown Estates profits are used to fund the Royal Family.
So, if the Crown Estate loses a chunk of its assets, it will lose a chunk of its profits and the Queen will lose out. Scotland will simply be taking the money that currently goes to pay for the Royal Family and spending it on whatever it likes. Scottish ministers could have decided to be conciliatory and to agree to send the same amount south to pay for the Queen as comes out of their Crown Estate profits – about £2 million. But they decided to metaphorically stick two fingers up at the Royal Family, the Treasury and Downing Street and say, No, we will spend on it whatever we like, if you want to fund the Queen, take it out of general taxation.
It is also worth bearing in mind the timing of this announcement. Ms Sturgeon is due to meet the Queen on Wednesday for her first formal appointment as Scotland’s First Minister. This decision to snub the Royal Family financially may cause some embarrassment for aides on both sides ahead of the meeting, but it is not being done to curry favour with the Queen. It is being done to appeal to the now almost 100,000 SNP members who still harbour grievances over the referendum and want Ms Sturgeon to show an aggressive approach when dealing with the British State.
She is certainly doing that and, what’s more, echoes of the old Ms Sturgeon are starting to emerge. Despite all her talk of running Scotland by consensus, she was one of the SNP MSPs who boycotted a visit of the Queen to Holyrood in 2003. She also refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen when first elected as an MSP in 1999, preferring instead to swear allegiance to the sovereignty of the people of Scotland. In the short time she has been in charge of the Scottish Government she has effectively declared war on Scottish landowners and picked a fight with the Queen.
Anyone who doesn’t quite know which side of the fence she was coming from, should certainly be aware of it now. Downing Street officials may be keen to ‘re-set’ the relationship between Westminster and Holyrood. However, if they are not careful, they will find that Ms Sturgeon has already done it for them.