I’VE had dealings with the Royals over the years. I last met Philip Mountbatten in 2016, at the bicentennial of Musselburgh Racecourse. He was in good nick for a (then) 94-year-old. Mind you, he does have access to the best medical treatment in the world.

I’ve never warmed to Phil. He did the honours at the official opening of Edinburgh Film House in Lothian Road, when I was chair. But he talked loudly all through the movie, the Emerald Forrest, much to the annoyance of the audience.

When I was an Edinburgh councillor, the Lord Provost’s office had the dubious task of organising (and funding) logistics for the royals’ private visits to the capital – God knows why. The biggest prima donna was always “Fergie” Ferguson, who demanded an extra limo for her luggage. Charles Windsor was affable but forever ill at ease with us lesser mortals.

I met Diana Spencer only once,at the 1986 Commonwealth Games, when she was at her most anorexic. She had a long conversation with one of our female councillors about how difficult it was to get a bra that fitted.

As for Elizabeth Windsor herself, I always have the problem that she reminds me of my mum. My Glaswegian er was barely 5ft and Liz can’t be much taller. I’ve a bad habit of breaking protocol and initiating the conversation with Mrs Windsor, rather than waiting to be spoken to first, as is the rule for queenly subjects.

Not that countrywoman and sporty Liz stands on ceremony. She’s happy to chat away, probably because it gets so boring having to initiate polite tête-à-tête.

At Musselburgh Racecourse she was peeved at her horse having lost a race. Well, a monarch who has been head of state since 1952 needs a hobby.

You’ll gather I’m not in awe of our royals. I suppose I inherited this republican insouciance from my parents, neither of who had a smidgen of the deference to the monarchy that still infests parts of the working class, and more so the English petty bourgeoisie.

My Liverpool-Irish father would gladly have put the entire aristocracy up against the nearest wall. My mum was merely indifferent, though she maintained a special hatred of that arch-royalist Winston Churchill.

She accused him of shooting workers and therefore deserving of the same in return. The only head of state or politician my mother had time for was General Charles de Gaulle, whom she met when he visited her factory during the Second World War. All of which begs a question: do we need a head of state at all? The current SNP position is one of “constructive ambiguity”, a phrase now much in vogue in Labour Party circles. Back in the late 1990s – when SNP annual conferences still decided policy matters – there was a huge stooshie over the role of the monarchy.

It was a heated discussion, enjoyed by everyone. In the end, conference decided to retain traditional SNP support for the monarchy – but to revisit the matter immediately after independence, when a referendum would be held to ratify the new Scottish constitution. (Yes folks, yet another referendum.)

Which means the current SNP position, assuming it still holds, is this. We keep the Windsor monarchy pro tem as a unifying symbol, basically to reassure opponents of independence that they are welcome in the new Scotland which, of course, they will be.

Naturally, this means any future Scottish head of state is decided not democratically but by whoever the current monarch has been to bed with; so we will get Charles, William and then little George. Unless any turn Catholic, which in our enlightened constitution gets them relegated.

Now, I get the argument about building bridges to the Unionist community in Scotland, especially post-independence. It’s just that I don’t think keeping the archaic Windsor monarchy fulfils this objective, especially if it alienates our Catholic community. In fact, keeping the hereditary Windsor monarchy does the opposite of uniting Scotland. For the Winsor monarchy is about to acquire a new lease of life as the symbol of reactionary “British” imperial values in the era of a hard Brexit.

Battered by austerity, loss of global influence and cultural insecurity, Middle England has retreated into a reactionary, anti-European phantasm. Result: it desperately seeks a new political imagery that stresses continuity with the supposedly “great” historical past; that elevates traditional constitutional verities above the incompetence of elected MPs; and that evokes a unique “British” identity. Enter the Windsor monarchy reborn. Forget Philip Mountbatten’s driving skills. The major danger in the current political climate is that the monarchy becomes re-politicised (assuming it was ever non-political at heart).

We have already had Mrs Windsor’s coded intervention in the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. Now she has waded into the Brexit crisis. Last week she used a speech to the pukka Sandringham WI to present an equally coded (but heavily spun) message urging MPs to “seek common ground”. In the current context, that can only help Theresa May get her Brexit deal through Westminster.

How should we respond north of the Border? I think we need a concrete gesture, not to just spout knee-jerk republicanism. My suggestion is that Holyrood legislate immediately to create the office of honorary president of the Scottish Parliament, normally shortened to Scottish President.

Initially, the Scottish president would be elected by Parliament itself, from nominations by the public. In the long run, if independence is delayed, I don’t see why the Hon Pres couldn’t be chosen by an online public ballot.

We already have precedents in the Scottish Parliament in creating honorary positions. In 2004, Holyrood created the post of Scots Makar, first awarded to the late, great Edwin Morgan. The new Scottish president would be a ceremonial figurehead representing the unity of the Scottish nation and symbolising the sovereignty of the Scottish people as outlined in the 1989 Claim of Right.

The Scottish president would be invited each year to address the Scottish Parliament on behalf of the nation, acting as a spokesperson for the people. She or he would officiate at ceremonies across the land and represent the spirit of Scottish popular democracy when abroad. Parliament could also delegate to its honorary president the task of meeting foreign dignitaries and politicians.

I can’t see anything ultra vires in creating the office of honorary Scottish president. I’m sure the Tory ultras will foam at the mouth, but I would hope for support from Labour lefties such as Neil Findlay, who prefaced his parliamentary oath by saying: “I believe that the people of Scotland should be citizens not subjects.”

Well Neil, let’s create an honorary president who embodies that very citizenship we both want to promote. Which means the person chosen to be the first Scottish President should command wide public support; ie not necessarily be a prominent nationalist.

Some will call this idea a gimmick or a waste of money in an era of austerity. But it is one modest way we can make a concrete break with the folderol, deliberate obfuscation and patent obsolescence of the British monarchy – and do it now.

And for the first Scottish president, my nomination goes to …