The UK has no right to our Stone of Destiny
ENGLAND decapitated Charles I in 1649. Almost 400 years later, Australia has found their own way to do it to Charles III – by deciding that his head will not appear on their new fiver.
Instead, the new note will feature First Nation culture, and in particular, the fascinating prickly moses wattle plant, and the colourful eastern spinebill bird. This will no doubt soften the blow for the monarch whose great interest in the fauna and flora of the crown dominions is well known.
Of course, on one level, the importance of this antipodean rebellion can be overstated, despite the extraordinary level of interest and coverage it has generated internationally.
After all, the monarch has never appeared on Scottish notes. Instead, over the years, the Clydesdale, Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank have all featured designs based on Scottish history, culture, scientific and sporting achievements. Indeed, Jack Nicklaus has been on a Scottish fiver more than any royal family member.
However, this move portends the shape of things to come. Within just a few years, Australia will most likely follow the most recent example of Barbados in 2021 and disengage from the British crown, leaving the Commonwealth for good.
This trend will be accelerated by the passing of the much-loved and respected Queen.
Significantly, even her considerable personal authority was not able to stem the tide of democracy and, having started out with 32 dominions, that number was halved over the course of her long reign.
Unlike the Queen, Charles does not command anything like such loyalty and, as soon as it is decent to do so, I predict a stampede of newly created republics among the 15 remaining crown realms.
The question is: Should an independent Scotland join the charge? And the answer is unquestionable, yes. And just as the revived republican movement in Australia has started with a symbol of the $5 note, we should start with the much more potent symbol – the Stone of Scone.
Readers of The National know the history. The Stone may be a lump of Perthshire sandstone but it is also the most ancient symbol of Scottish nationhood.
Often referred to as the Stone of Destiny, it was looted by Edward Longshanks in 1296 and remained for seven full centuries in Westminster Abbey as the coronation stone for English and then British monarchs.
It was briefly repatriated by the late Ian Hamilton and his patriotic band on Christmas Day 1952 and eventually returned to Scotland in 1995 by Lord Forsyth in a blatant and unsuccessful attempt to save his own political bacon. It has remained in Edinburgh Castle since as part of the Honours of Scotland exhibition.
I note in passing that a disappointed pal recently visited Scotland’s number one tourist destination and described Edinburgh Castle to me as the “offender” rather than the “defender” of the nation, given the accent of its current displays on British imperial history.
Perhaps Scottish ministers intent on reparations for Scotland’s dubious colonial history should note what is being presented in their name by Historic Scotland?
At any rate, under the terms of the Forsyth manoeuvre, the Stone is due to be taken back to Westminster for the Charles coronation. But I ask, why on earth should this happen? Stolen property is not meant to be returned with strings attached. It is meant to just be returned.
King Charles swore an oath on his accession last year to uphold Scotland’s Claim of Right which, stripped of its 17th-century sectarian trappings, upholds the golden thread of Scottish popular sovereignty.
Right now, the Westminster government and the institutions of the state are defying that constitutional tradition by refusing to allow our nation to exercise our right of self-determination.
Why then should we now meekly hand over the most ancient symbol of Scottish nationhood to grace the London coronation this May?
An alternative stance would be to keep our Stone until such time as Scotland’s rights are recognised.
Of course, if the agonised King Charles III wishes to honour his oath, follow the 1651 example of his chancer ancestor Charles II and have a Scottish coronation, then that would be a new and different circumstance.
It would not convince me personally that it was not closing time for the crown but at least it would indicate that this less-than-Merry Monarch merited use of the Stone and was honouring his obligations to our nation.
However, unless and until that happens, I say put the Stone under lock and key guarded by an appropriate contingent of Edinburgh’s finest.
Such a move would make the worldwide stooshie of the Australian fiver pale into insignificance and it would move the constitutional battle with Westminster on to the high ground of Scotland’s nationhood and away from other extraneous matters.