THE last two weeks have seen a lot of focus on the Queen’s life and that of her successor, but there has been very little discussion about the role and future of the institution of the monarchy itself.

With King Charles taking the throne, we can recognise the pain of a grieving family while also respectfully debating if this is the way we should be governed.

My Green colleagues and I have been clear in our republicanism, and we aren’t the only ones. It is easy to get the impression that the monarchy is almost unanimously supported.

It is not.

Polling from the British Future think tank has found that only 45% of people in Scotland support the monarchy as an institution, with over one-third opposed to it. Republicanism may not be a majority position, but it is far from the fringe view that it is often presented as.

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Our opposition is not to the individuals but to the fundamentally undemocratic system and the patriarchal institution they represent. One aspect that has received a lot of focus over the years is the decadence and the cost of royalty.

The stories of soaring royal spending feel particularly distasteful during a cost crisis that is plunging millions of people into poverty. But that is only a small part of the reason for opposing the institution. Even if it cost us nothing at all, that wouldn’t make it right.

So it is not just the class system and entrenched inequality that they represent. It is their role in our politics, which is far from the apolitical one that we are often told about. On the contrary, it is a deeply political institution.

Only last year, it was revealed that the royal family’s lawyers had lobbied Scottish ministers in a bid to secure an exemption from environmental legislation for their properties. But the political role that the institution has played has not been limited to these shores.

The royal family’s historic and symbolic role in propping up and fuelling the British Empire and colonialism is well documented.

Whether that is the involvement of previous monarchs in funding companies such as the Royal African Company, which directly dealt in slavery, or in the imagery and stories used to justify colonial rule. More recently, they have been used to provide political support for human rights abusers around the world. In this role, they have been used to legitimise the cruel and hypocritical foreign policy that successive governments have followed.

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We saw a particularly horrible example of this “soft power” in action in 2014 when Prince Charles (now King Charles) visited Saudi Arabia as part of a charm offensive to coincide with the ongoing fighter jet negotiation between the Saudi royal family and Europe’s biggest arms company, BAE Systems.

The deal had hit a wall due to a dispute over pricing. While there, Charles posed for the cameras and took part in a traditional sword dance in order to impress his repressive hosts. Images of the visit were broadcast all over the world. Then, as if by magic, the long-running pricing dispute was instantly resolved.

It was far from the only time that royalty has been used to cosy up to human rights-abusing regimes and dictatorships on behalf of big business.

Prince Andrew clocked up a horrific amount of air miles in an honorary role that he did on behalf of UK Trade & Investment before he had to withdraw following personal scandals. In that role, he regularly flaunted his position in the interests of arms dealers and other controversial industries.

As one loose-lipped royal spokesperson told the Guardian in 2011: “He comes in as the son of the Queen, and that opens doors that otherwise would remain closed. He can raise problems with a crown prince, and weeks later, we discover the difficulties have been overcome and the contract can be signed.”

The spokesperson went even further, adding, with a tone that was paternalistic and borderline colonial: “We don’t send him to developed countries like France and Sweden, where a member of the royal family would not make a difference, but in developing countries, or the far east, a prince can get in because of who he is.”

In 2014, and amid a brutal crackdown, Prince Andrew joined his mother in hosting the Bahraini royal family at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, an act they repeated in 2019. These were not apolitical actions and will have been seen as a clear sign of support by the Bahraini regime and a slap in the faces of the human rights defenders that it has detained and tortured.

Prince Andrew may have been stripped of some of his titles and his wealth, but by accident of birth, he will be guaranteed a life of luxury and privilege beyond most people’s wildest dreams.

Is this really the best system of government we can have? Is it really a fitting way to govern any country in the 21st century?

The modern and progressive Scotland that the Greens want to build is one that is based on human rights, equality and democracy, rather than one where we are ruled based on a specific bloodline.

As we move closer to an independence referendum, it is right that we talk respectfully and freely about what Scotland could look like and how it could be governed.

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The idea that any family has the right to such power and status based on hereditary titles and unearned wealth is not one I could ever support, regardless of the personal qualities of the individuals in question.

Some will say that it is the wrong time to be asking these questions. But, with a new king taking the throne and a referendum only a year away, it is exactly the time to be having these conversations.

Across the Commonwealth, there are countries starting to plan for a post-monarchy future. In the years ahead, I hope that an independent Scotland can do the same.