Last Queen of Scotland? September 2014.

Dear Rowley,

How did the vote for Scottish Independence get within a gnat’s crotchet of dividing the United Kingdom? We all quite naturally thought that Alex Salmond alone would scupper the misguided bid for independence.  I know politics isn’t a beauty contest but would you trust a man who looks like the love child of David Guest and Tyne Daly? Surely even the most drear and chippy highlander would reject a man who likened Scottish Independence to the end of Apartheid in South Africa. Apparently not…

Now we have the unedifying spectacle of the three stooges – Cameron, Milliband and Clegg – high tailing it up north on the Flying Scotsman to shore up the opposition. I did find Mr Cameron’s ‘we don’t want to lose you’ statement this morning rather nauseating. The PM will be ‘heartbroken’. Christ, it’s like sending Rikki Lake to broker the Treaty of Versailles. Still, every silver lining has a cloud. The Prime Minister will not step down should Scotland vote to scarper. I’d have thought losing Scotland on his watch would justify the chop if not the full Mary Queen of Scots.

Department of no surprises that The Queen has declined to enter the political debate. Like a practised kabuki artist HM has made her opinion abundantly clear by choosing to be at Balmoral on the day of the vote. The Queen has the strongest Scottish bloodline of a reigning British monarch since King James the Sixth & First being a daughter of the Bowes-Lyon clan. Like Queen Victoria, Her Majesty is so obviously at her happiest at Balmoral. The Queen is a countrywoman hence her delight at the annual Braemar Highland Gathering where she is photographed hooting with laughter at caber tossing, stone putting and the tug o’ war. It’s probably not as much fun for the poor contestants being stretchered off to the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary but there we are.

Whether the vote is och aye or noooo, Her Majesty will still be Queen of Scotland. But history teaches us that once the cracks in the constitution begin to show, it is only a matter of time before the whole edifice shatters. The Union is vital to the survival of the monarchy. Prince Charles, or the Duke of Rothesay as he’s titled in Scotland, has strong emotional ties to the Highlands. He rescued Dumfries House and its contents for the nation, preserves his grandmother Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s only privately owned residence the Castle of Mey and lives in her former home Birkhall on the Balmoral Estate.

Whereas the ‘Yes’ vote seems to have crept up on politicians, the Royal Family has been quietly but industriously strengthening the Windsor ties to Scotland. It hasn’t gone unnoticed that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (the Earl and Countess of Strathearn up north) have often been deployed to Scotland since the nuptials of 2011. The announcement this week that the Duchess of Cambridge is expecting her second child couldn’t have been timed better to put the Royal Family – Britain’s greatest uniting force – foremost in the minds of any Scot contemplating independence.

Nailing my colours to the mast, I think an independent Scotland will diminish us all. The victory will be hollow and the United Kingdom will lose the last vestiges of its dignity, power and influence on the world stage. Still, the politicians don’t seem to be making a very good fist of fending off Mr Salmond’s assault. He’s not Braveheart for God’s sake. Pull yourselves together. Former PM John Major took to the airwaves this morning to say in that nasal, flat voice that could make kittens commit hara-kiri that the Scots were incompetent not putting a new currency in place. Insulting a proud nation’s grey matter isn’t ideal one would have thought…

Anyway, God forbid the Scots decide to start buggering about with our borders because Wales and Northern Ireland are sure to follow. The last thing anyone wants is for the former United Kingdom to be as fractious and fidgety as the Balkans. Still, if Scotland votes for independence I think the West End of London has a jolly good reason to copy Passport to Pimlico and declare ourselves an independent, tax-free sovereign state like Monaco.

In other news, I had a fascinating appointment yesterday with the Crown Estates in St. James’s. The Crown Estates owns 50% of St. James’s and is in the process of a ten-year redevelopment that has already given the kiss of life to the once dreary, anonymous Haymarket. The occasion yesterday was the renaming of Lower Regent Street. Actually it never was called Lower Regent Street. Nash’s grand plan executed when George IV was Prince Regent was to carve a grand boulevard from Oxford Circus to the Regent’s London home Carlton House. Nash’s Regent Street was demolished (as was Carlton House) and the southernmost stretch of Regent Street cut-off by Piccadilly Circus.

Over the years the southernmost stretch of Regent Street became prefixed with ‘Lower’. The Crown Estates have decided to rename this street topped by Piccadilly Circus and tailed by the Duke of York’s Column Regent Street St. James’s. Another key jigsaw piece in the Crown Estates’ plan is the redirection of traffic flow from one to two directions on St. James’s Street and Piccadilly that has been christened the ‘Piccadilly Two Way’. Now I don’t know about you Rowley, but in my day a Piccadilly Two Way meant something entirely different. Until next time…