Over the weekend, The Times revealed plans for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to spend more time in Scotland in an attempt to salvage the Union. Senior aides apparently intend for the Duke and Duchess to spend more time at Balmoral, the Queen’s Scottish estate, treating it as a regular home “rather than a place for brief holidays”. This follows their most recent foray north of the border, when the Duke and Duchess toured Edinburgh, St Andrews, Orkney, North Lanarkshire and East Lothian.
In a parade of wonderfully thought-out tartan ensembles – and endearing relatability, when the Duchess asked onlookers in St Andrews whether their favourite pub during university years was still open – William and Kate did nothing short of nailing the brief. However, that’s not to say it will always be plain sailing in Scottish waters.
Scotland traditionally returns the lowest levels of support for the monarchy in opinion polls. An Opinium poll commissioned by Sky News earlier this year suggested that 39% of all people surveyed would agree to retain a monarchy after independence. Placed against the favourability the monarchy enjoys throughout the rest of the United Kingdom—some 69%—this is stark.
Second, it is widely respected that the British royals reject political interference and never publicly reveal their political affiliations. However, the Union was royal before it was political. Before the political union of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the union was personal, which meant nations had their own laws, identities, and distinct borders but recognised the same monarch.
The current monarch’s level of emotional and personal attachment to Scotland was revealed in 2014, before the first vote on independence, when Queen Elizabeth II made headlines after telling a well-wisher at Balmoral that she hoped “people would think carefully about the future”.
The monarchy embodies historical and cultural continuity and is therefore a part of our national identity. Whether the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are capable of salvaging a fractured political union remains to be seen.