President Salmond of Scotland
Recently-agreed constitutional changes relating to the rules of succession and religious allegiance of the UK monarch, could create an opportunity for those working towards an independent republican Scotland.
The recently-discussed constitutional changes a the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Australia provide Alex Salmond MSP, the Scottish First Minister with a further leverage in his aim of an independent Scotland – a republican Scotland even.
David Cameron chipped away at historic legislation which bestows the right of accession to the throne on the first-born male (primogeniture). The British Prime Minister also spoke of his intention to lift the ban on the Monarch being married to a Roman Catholic.
To the man in the street, these changes – actual or potential – are undoubtedly sensible in terms of gender-equality in multi-faith, non-discriminatory society. However the ramifications will most certainly undermine the historic Act of Settlement of 1701 which in turn led into the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain through the Act of Union in 1707.
King Henry VIII
At that time, a post-Reformation presbyterian Scotland would never have countenanced a formal and constitional union without the essential guarantee, which the Act of Settlement provided, that the monarch would be a male Protestant.
And with King Henry VIII’s defection from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, the monarch’s title of ‘Defender of the Faith’ (ironically first bestowed on him by Pope Leo X in that day) transferred to render the King protector of the Protestant faith.
However a multi-faith Prince Charles has made it know that if he succeeds his mother to the throne he would want to be known as Defender of Faith (plural and various). In the present climate it is likely that any necessary changes – legal and constitutional – would be made. In the words of one columist, an process which 'would destroy our Christian identity.'
Any change in the status quo would have huge ramifications given that the monarch is, as King Henry VIII declared himself to be, 'head of the Church of England'.
Given that Scottish Presbyterianism would sit very uneasily under a multi-faith monarch the Scottish First Minister could well attract the support of the Protestant churches and any neo-Covenanting spirit in Scotland to displace the UK monarch as head of state. While Salmond is presently stating that a politically-independent Scotland would retain the present Queen Elizabeth as the titular head of state, it is entirely possible that the wily politician silently relishes the thought of capping his political career with the title President Salmond in a republican Scotland.
If, as Otto Von Bismark opined, ‘Politics is the art of the possible’ then this scenario, for Alex Salmond, is growing more possible by the day.
UK Constitution: The UK has a delicately-balanced constitution whereby the sovereign agrees to 'sit under God' via the Protestant faith. The monarch invites the democratically-elected Prime Minister to form a government, which can only 'sit' while the the sovereign is symbolically present through the Mace on the floor of the House of Commons. The Mace is carried in by a representative of the House of Lords to which the House of Commons is answerable. Yet the bearer (Black Rod) has no guaranteed right of access. The House of Lords is comprised of both peers and senior clergy from the Church of England of which the monarch is the titular head.
The Act of Union (Article 2) specifies that Roman Catholics may not ascend the Throne of the United Kingdom. Tampering with this Act and (necessarily) a raft of inter-related legislation and the whole house of cards could come tumbling down.
Salmond upsetting the Roman Catholic Church
With regards the voting constituency in Scotland, Alex Salmond has most-recently alienated the Roman Catholic Church through his SNP administration’s call for same-sex marriage.
On this issue also, Sir Brian Soutar, a principle and high-profile funder of the SNP may pause before writing any further campaign cheques for SNP coffers. The multi-millionare co-founder of bus-company Stagecoach, along with the Scottish Roman Catholic Church’s then-primate the late Cardinal Winning, was at the van of the ‘Keep the Clause’ campaign in the fledgling years of the Scottish Parliament. The action which was designed to keep pro-homosexual teaching out of schools, almost brought down the Labour-led government while still in its infancy.
Meanwhile the SNP leader has to contend with polarised views within his own ranks with relation to the SNP's overt support for same-sex marriage. SNP MSP John Mason was a attacked by both Westminster and Scottish parliamentarians in his own party when he earlier tabled a motion to protect churches from having to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies.