‘Scots grab Queen’s cash!’ bleats the Daily Mail in full indignant Jockophobic glory. Yes the Most Dangerous Woman in Britain is at it again, stealing from a poor defenceless old lady. Of course pitching the Queen (legal owner of about 6.6 billion acres of land, one-sixth of the earth’s land surface) as the underdog is just a wee bit cheeky, but, hey who cares, it’s a good excuse to have ago at those terrible money-grubbing Scots, innit?
Actually this story isn’t just wrong (as in just fatally completely not true) but it’s a re-tread of a story last tried-out in December last year. Andy Wightman comprehensively demolished it then and we do so again today: “Having a long-standing interest in the Crown Estate and the strange circumstances in which, in 2011, the Sovereign Grant Bill had been rushed through Parliament , I knew this story made no sense for the simple reason that responsibility for the financing of the Royal Family is a reserved matter and that there are no proposals to change this state of affairs.
The story was then regurgitated by Hamish in the Spectator blog with even more extravagant claims such as “Scotland will simply be taking the money that currently goes to pay for the Royal Family and spending it on whatever it likes”, that the refusal to hand the money over was a “snub” designed to appeal to SNP members who “still harbour grievances over the referendum”.
By this point a number of journalists who were interested in following up the story contacted me. I told them that there were no proposals to devolve responsibility for financing the Royal Family and that the entire story appeared to be what I described in my blog as “a dung heap of unadulterated, fabricated crap”.
The plain facts are that the Crown Estate revenues do not finance the Royal Family but merely provide a benchmark against which the Sovereign Grant is calculated (using an initial figure of 15%), that the matter is reserved to Westminster, and that the Smith Commission (which recommended devolution of the Crown Estate) had correctly noted that “responsibility for financing the Sovereign grant will need to reflect this revised settlement for the Crown Estate.”
Now no-one expects the Mail to do any research or to remember its failed smear of six months ago but the BBC and the Guardian (Caroline Davies) repeat the nonsense here.
Might this have something to do with desperate Palace spinning today as its announced that public funding of the Queen is expected to rise by £2m next year – to £42.8m?