I REMEMBER gazing through the glass of my mum’s old display cabinet at a postcard of the beautiful young Queen Elizabeth in a white dress, blue sash, long white satin gloves and a tiara. The Queen sat on a shelf of her own – above the photographs of my Catholic cousins’ Holy Communions. I spent hours staring into an inaccessible world within a world. It was like a snow globe.

Sometimes, when I thought I could get away with it, I would put a nightdress on and pull out my dad’s satin and velvet Orange and Freemason regalia from the bottom of the wardrobe and glide up the linoleumed hall of our flat in the Gorbals pretending I was a princess living in the wing of a palace. And I’d look out on to the concrete square outside and imagine it was a courtyard.

Then back to reality. The palace was a cramped two-bedroom flat where six of us lived. And the courtyard was shared by a hundred families. But as I entered my teens, the headscarfed Queen in Hunter wellies, surrounded by corgis, and appearing on our TV screens every Christmas speaking in the tortured vowels of the privileged, no longer fired my imagination. By that time, my politics were to the left of Arthur Scargill. I wanted an independent Scotland that would requisition the royal family’s holiday home at Balmoral along with its 50,000 acres and turn it into homeless accommodation.

So, I was well aware of the contradictions when Lady Diana Spencer came along and had me sitting transfixed at the telly as she burst out of a golden carriage in the biggest meringue of a wedding dress anybody had ever seen. I was 16 at the time. She was 19. When you’re 16, a 19 year old is mature sophistication personified. But she was a teenager set to be shackled to a 32 year old.

She was undoubtedly different from the other royals. Anyway, that’s what the media told us. She worked in a nursery, for goodness sake. Despite myself, I warmed to her. But it was only later, when she became more alluring than the royal institution itself and when they sought to solve the “problem” of Diana, that I realised, whatever she was really like as a person, they had no business exploiting a teenager’s susceptibility to a romantic dream to secure the succession to the throne. And I realised that, despite her wealth and privilege, she was still oppressed as a woman. She was never going to struggle to buy tampons but her biological functions became the property of the monarchy.

I wasn’t genetically programmed into fascination with the royals. It was just so steeped in my upbringing that it was embedded into my emotional world long before I had the cognitive ability to question their privilege and my poverty. Confronted by my own, annoyingly persistent inclination to watch documentaries about the royals, I can hardly castigate people for gooing over Prince George and Princess Charlotte. It makes me realise that it will not be easy to shift people from their majority support of the monarchy – even in an independent Scotland. Now my political and social circle is almost entirely inhabited by republicans. To hear some people on the left, it seems they were always sensible, always cynical, always knowing and inherently immune to the magnetism of royalism. But if republicans don’t try to understand the seductive draw of the Windsors, we will remain an entrenched minority for a long time to come.

When in an optimistic frame of mind, I like to think that one of them, like William, or Harry, or Anne – who didn’t choose to be born into royalty – will escape their gilded towers and proclaim their support for a republic. But that comes from the same magical thinking that imagined my council flat in the Gorbals was a palace. And, if I’m honest, if I had been born into their position, would I have easily discarded the tiaras, palaces and privileges?

I long ago shook off royalism and discarded my dad’s mystical satin and velvet adornments. And I understand now that my early fascination with royalty was the shine on a tough childhood.

We pay the monarchy a third of a billion pounds every year for their privilege. Individually, according to a report compiled by to the campaign group Republic – Counting the Cost of the Monarchy – each “working” royal costs us £19.1 million a year. It’s further been calculated that Prince William worked just 47 days a year in 2014. And his granny kitted out his new home to the tune of £4m from the public purse. Prince Charles jumps on a private train costing 30 grand a trip when he could just buy a first-class ticket. Republic estimates that the price of the royals is worth 15,500 nurses.

And the benefits to tourism are grossly exaggerated. VisitBritain claims that tourist income generated by monarchy works out at the conveniently easy to remember figure of £500m. But even VisitBritain had to acknowledge that there was no evidence tourism would decline if we abolished the monarchy. Mary Queen of Scots is long gone but people still flock to Edinburgh Castle and the numerous other palaces and castles she was reputed to have stayed in. Anyway the issue of cost is really a diversion from the main question. Do we really believe that a baby should be born into unaccountable power, wealth and privilege, predestined to be elevated above us the rest of us? While outside the palace gates, children who sleep in bedsits and go without clothes, shoes and food can only gaze in wonder at the fabulous riches?

It is time to put the world of the monarchy inside a snow globe forever.