FORMER Prime Minister Gordon Brown may have unwittingly ensured the end of the monarchy in Scotland.

Hot on the heels of a report in The Mail on Sunday that, at the behest of Downing Street the royal family is to lead a so-called “charm offensive” in order to bolster support for the Union in Scotland, came a secretive meeting between Brown – who now holds no public office but who heads a campaigning organisation aiming to head off Scottish independence – and the second in line to the throne, while the latter and his wife were on an official visit to Scotland to do a spot of waving at the peasantry.

According to the royal household we are supposed to believe there is absolutely no connection at all between these two events. Mind you, the royal household is not exactly a reliable guide to what people in Scotland believe. It would also have us believe that in Scotland Prince William and his wife are known as the Earl and Countess of Strathearn, but the only time that anyone in Scotland refers to them as the Earl and Countess of Strathearn is when a BBC news announcer tells us that in Scotland the couple are known as the Earl and Countess of Strathearn.

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I’ve lived in Scotland a very long time and have never actually heard anyone other than a TV news announcer use that title. I’ve heard Scottish people refer to members of the royal family by many titles and epithets, many of which, especially those referring to Prince Andrew, are not fit for publication in a family newspaper.

However, the claim that in Scotland the second in line to the throne is known as the Earl of Strathearn is up there in the fantasy land stakes along with Gordon Brown’s claim that within three years of a No vote in 2014 we’d be experiencing the closest thing possible to full-fat federalism and that Gordie would be the man who would personally ensure it would come about.

Brown has recently announced that his long existing think tank Our Scottish Future is to become a more overtly campaigning organisation targeted at what he describes as “middle Scotland” – those who are neither sold on the idea of independence nor attracted to the aggressively British nationalist hyper-Unionism of the Conservatives.

What he’s offering is essentially a reheated version of the promises of federalism and reform which were made in 2014. And just like 2014, there is still no plausible or convincing mechanism for how this could actually be delivered. Indeed any prospect of a federal UK is now far less realistic than it was in 2014. The Conservatives dominate English politics and are in no mood to put any limits on the power of Downing Street and the Westminster Parliament in order to placate a restless Scotland.

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It would appear that Gordie has now enlisted the royal family in pursuit of his quixotic quest. There has always been a long-standing convention in what passes for a British constitution that the monarchy does not get involved in politics although, this being the UK, what that really means is that politicians and the state broadcaster will collude in the fantasy that the royal family does not get involved in politics and will turn a blind eye to evidence to the contrary, such as Prince Charles’ voluminous correspondence with government ministers over the years.

NEVERTHELESS, the royal household appeared to realise that getting involved in the Scottish independence debate by meeting with a man whose sole public role is that of a prominent anti-independence campaigner not only crossed a line which should not be crossed, but left that line vanishing into the distance in the rear view mirror. That can be the only plausible explanation for Kensington Palace’s cack-handed attempts to prevent Channel 4 from reporting on the meeting.

Despite far less enthusiasm for the monarchy in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK, the question of whether an independent Scotland should be a republic or should continue with the existing monarchy has not been a major issue in the independence debate.

The National: HRH Queen Elizabeth II visits Blackburn Cathedral for Maundy service 17/04/2014

However, should the Windsors allow themselves to become closely identified with the campaign to oppose independence that could very well change. The line adopted by the SNP under Alex Salmond in 2014 was that an independent Scotland would continue with the queen as head of state. That policy has not changed under Nicola Sturgeon. Many others in the wider independence movement believe that the question of monarchy or republic is not one which needs to be answered just now, but rather should be for the people of Scotland to decide following the establishment of an independent Scottish state.

If the royal family and its advisers were wise, they would remind both sides in Scotland’s constitutional debate that the royals owe their status as the monarchy in Scotland thanks to the Union of the Crowns of 1603, and that this is entirely separate from, and has nothing to do with, the Union of Parliaments of 1707.

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The current constitutional debate in Scotland is about the latter union, not the former. The monarch and her representatives should therefore state that they intend to keep well out of this debate and assure Scotland that whatever decision its people make about the Union of Parliaments, the Union of Crowns will remain and they would be honoured to continue to serve the people of Scotland as the country’s royal house.

However, wisdom and foresight are not qualities often associated with a British establishment all too often characterised by arrogance and entitlement. It is far more likely the royal family will continue its nudge-nudge, wink-wink association with opposition to independence.

The danger for them then is that they are only making it more likely that if and when Scotland becomes independent, the country will move to abolish the monarchy or to severely restrict role and influence of the royals.

After all, there can be no independent state anywhere in the world that would be happy to have as its head of state an individual who was actively hostile to the creation of the state and who worked to oppose it ever coming into being.