ON July 5, Charles and Camilla will be holding a kind of mini-coronation at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Steeped in archaic symbolism of hereditary power and privilege, this faux-ancient ceremony that dates back only as far as 1953 is typical of royal traditions. It has one purpose – to dress up a profoundly immoral, undemocratic and corrupt institution as a historical inevitability, part of the fabric of society that we tear away at our peril.

Yet tear the monarchy down we must. Which is why I’m once again setting out to protest and ­inviting people from around Scotland and the UK to join me and hundreds of others on the Royal Mile when the royal couple arrive for the Honours of Scotland ­service.

But it isn’t simply a protest against the ­monarchy, but a protest in support of a profoundly more ­democratic, fairer and equitable society. Because the monarchy isn’t a harmless relic, but an institution that sits at the head of a second-rate constitution and at the heart of a culture of deference and class that causes real harm and compromises our commitment to equality.

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Abolishing the monarchy isn’t a panacea. It won’t end inequality or even class and privilege, but while we cannot solve the country’s problems by ­abolishing the monarchy, solving issues of social justice, ­equality and democratic reform will be a lot easier with the monarchy gone. Abolishing the monarchy also solves one very obvious problem – the monarchy itself.

Wrong in principle, wrong in practice

There are those who say well, yes, the monarchy is daft and makes no sense, but it works. Some even seem to revel in the apparent quirkiness of our ­constitution, believing that through some ­inexplicable means the monarchy, which makes no sense and appears by all accounts to be unprincipled and wrong, nevertheless makes Britain and our ­constitution stronger.

Yet this appeal to the eccentric and peculiar is ­really nothing more than a smokescreen, a way of avoiding having to defend the indefensible, to ­offer any substantial benefit to having one family ­occupy the highest office of state.

And whether or not ­something “works” is hardly a defence, particularly on ­political and constitutional questions because we must also ask if it works better than the ­alternatives, and, ­regardless of whether it works or not, is it ­ethical or principled to organise our constitution in this way?

The vast majority of people in Scotland and around the UK support democracy and democratic values. We support the notion that we should be political equals, that governments must be accountable and representative and we support the rule of law.

Yet the monarchy isn’t only undemocratic, it stands firmly against these values and principles. The monarchy is founded on principles of feudal hierarchy and divine right, a worldview that sees inequality as a natural order, not a challenge to be met with economic and political reform.

By clinging to the monarchy and making absurdist excuses for it, all we really do is compromise our principles and give cover to those who have no qualms about exploiting their privilege and power for personal gain.

When anyone defends the monarchy with “but it works” be sure to ask, “works for who?”. It certainly doesn’t work for ordinary people, but it does work well for the royals – and for those in government.

A handy definition of corruption would be the abuse of public office for private gain. That’s also a handy definition of monarchy. There’s a reason the royals continue to cling on to medieval cosplay and archaic titles, such as when Charles last week appointed his wife to the ­Order of the Thistle.

The royal dress-up box helps hide a simple reality, that without that façade of the ancient and regal the Mountbatten-Windsor family is just a family on the make.

They possess no greater skill or character than anyone else, they have not earned or worked for their privileges or positions and do very little in return for the vast wealth and privilege afforded to them.

Yet for no reason than the patriarch’s mother was head of state before him, the King’s family help themselves to ­hundreds of millions of pounds of public money, demand secrecy and protection from scrutiny and use their unique access to government to lobby for legal ­privileges and exemptions from countless laws.

The cost of the monarchy is never an argument for a republic, but the use of public money for personal travel and palatial homes is a sign of an institution that is not fit for purpose. Yet unlike when MPs are caught abusing their expenses, too few politicians and commentators are willing to call out the royals. Too many journalists instead defend the royals or simply go along with the dishonesty of the palace press office.

Take the Duchies of Cornwall and ­Lancaster as an example. The royals claim they are private estates, insisting the public have no right to know what they’re up to or to question why these land portfolios give Charles and William private incomes of more than £22 million a year each.

Yet the history of the ­Duchies is clear – they are state assets, property of the Crown and should rightly be ­incorporated into the Crown Estate, their profits handed to the Government.

In another sleight of hand, a little more than a decade ago, the royals won a new financial settlement which allows them to give the impression they cost nothing.

The Crown Estate, a publicly owned land portfolio, is now used as a means of calculating royal funding, leaving many to believe that the monarchy is self-funded. Yet this simply isn’t the case.

The Crown Estate does not fund the Sovereign Grant, and even if it did, the Crown Estate is not the property of the monarch or the royal family. The ­monarchy is funded by the Government and costs us far more than the royal household would have you believe – an estimated £345m according to a report produced by Republic in 2017.

READ MORE: King Charles and Camilla Scotland service set to see protests

That’s enough to pay for 13,000 new nurses or teachers. Yet we spend it on a handful of millionaires and billionaires.

In the 1990s, the Government in ­London introduced the Nolan ­Principles, or the seven principles of public life. These include selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. These are the principles against which we can judge wayward or corrupt prime ministers and police officers alike.

Yet when we judge the royals against these standards they fall well short. This is a family that demands ­exemptions from environmental protection and race ­relations legislation, they demand ­exemptions from tax while insisting the taxpayer picks up the bill for their lavish lifestyles.

When the Queen died last September, Charles avoided paying any tax on an estimated £650m inheritance. Where is the selflessness, integrity or leadership in seeking at every turn to avoid tax or ­demand public money, to demand ­secrecy while using privileged access to seek to lobby and influence government?

There are those who will defend Charles, William and the others, to whom I say: vote for them. Because to challenge and criticise the royals is not to argue against the monarchy because we don’t like the Mountbatten-Windsor ­family, but to point out that these are not ­people we would vote for in a free and fair ­election. My bet is that in a free and fair election devoid of sycophancy, Charles and ­William would lose, and lose badly. Which begs the question, why do we put up with them as head of state and heir?

A rotten constitution

The fantasy of Britain’s constitution being the envy of the world has been sorely tested in recent years. While Scotland benefits from devolution it is still the case that the whole of the UK is poorly governed by Westminster, not least because of the way in which our constitution is designed.

I say designed, but in truth, it has evolved through one stumbling reform to another, with those in power ­granting ­universal suffrage and more trivial ­reforms ­adjusting the system to the demands of contemporary democratic norms, but by and large remaining a faulty compromise between parliamentary democracy and monarchy.

It is the focus of power in the hands of the Government – thanks in large part to the Crown – that distinguishes us as a constitutional monarchy, rather than a parliamentary democracy. It is a problem that has infected our political culture, with MPs often insisting that parliamentary sovereign – not popular sovereignty – is a virtue that must be protected. Yet there is also an expectation that parliament will do the bidding of government, meaning that in practice parliamentary sovereignty has become government sovereignty.

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The upshot of this powerful executive and weak parliament is that bad laws are passed and poor government isn’t held properly to account. With no real checks and balances and no ­codified ­constitution, there are few ­protections against an ­attack on our rights or ­democracy. Even devolution remains a gift from Westminster, one Westminster could, if minded, snatch away with a ­single Act of parliament.

The Crown’s powers, exercised by ­government through the Privy Council, allow ministers to control parliament, ­including the timing of recess, the ­agenda and time allowed for debates and, of course, the calling of elections. Rather than being a defender of our ­democracy and liberty, as royalists often claim, the king is no help. Rather than an ­independent head of state, able to ­enforce the limits of government power, we have a pointless head of state, ­constitutionally impotent and there to serve the ­government of the day.

There is a reason so few people have faith in Britain’s political system. It’s ­because the system is geared to focus power in the hands of the few at the ­expense of the many. After election, that power flows inexorably into Downing Street, while parliament, opposition and citizen are rendered largely powerless.

A better future

Abolishing the monarchy is about far more than ridding ourselves of one grubby, corrupt institution. It is about making space for a new, more democratic society.

While abolition won’t solve all our problems, solving deep-seated issues of poverty, inequality and climate change will all be easier if we are equipped with a genuinely democratic constitution. Because a more democratic constitution means the needs and interests of the many are more likely to be represented and better served than now. Those in power will have to share that power, negotiate and compromise while our rights would be better protected by a codified constitution.

In our head of state – an elected ­president – we will have someone who is chosen by us, not to govern but to ­represent the nation and guard our ­constitution. Whether that’s two heads of state for two nations, or one head of state for the whole of the UK, is a matter for the people of Scotland to decide.

But wherever the borders are drawn, those elections will be opportunities to think about what kind of country we are and what kind of person we want ­representing us.

Unlike a coronation, where subjects are expected to be spectators, an election for our head of state will give citizens the ­responsibility of being participants in our democracy. Instead of being told it will be Charles, we will instead have a choice. And whether it is Scotland choosing a head of state or the whole of the UK, we will be spoilt for choice.

So come July 5, get out and protest. Not just against the monarchy, but for a better, fairer, more equitable society. E

veryone and anyone who is concerned about social justice, equality or the environment should feel part of this growing movement for a more democratic society.

So whether you’re carrying a placard that cries Not My King, or demanding action on climate change or racial equality – be part of the protest for a fairer society, a republic that has no room for monarchy or hereditary privilege, a society where we are genuinely citizens, not subjects.