2007 - 2021

Kilts and Populist Royalism

We covered the original Kate and Wills story more as a joke than anything, as Kate’s Tourdrobe crushed Scotland’s hopes of independence. But it seems it’s not a joke after all.

At first the crude propaganda seems desperate and comic. Speaking in Edinburgh at the closing ceremony of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, William said “I’m shaped by this place. The abiding affection I feel for it is rooted in my experience of its everyday life in people, relationships, and its ethic of neighbourliness.”

What or who is that gibberish aimed at?

Certainly not you or I.

It – and the creation of Gordon Brown’s ‘Middle Scotland’ (a bit like the Third way meets Middle Earth) – is a defensive posture designed to engage and retain the over 60s and create some wonderful new framing. Having essentially lost the political case, Unionists are now shifting ground elsewhere to more fertile fairy tales. The first of these is to try and create a populist royalism based on the slightly thin basis of observing that YouGov reports William having a 69% positive view to Boris Johnson’s 22% positive viewing.  The very obvious MEMO that William ISN’T A POLITICIAN (!) seems to have entirely passed by Tim Shipman, Roya Nikkah and John Boothman, as does the central issue that it is completely unconstitutional behaviour, a passing fact that doesn’t seem to trouble anyone.

The creation of this new attack line is neatly interspersed with the idea that it’s all ‘politicians’ fault and the NON political William and Catherine can step in. This line is reinforced with the news that “the disclosure came as Downing Street confirmed that the the Queen and Johnson had not met in person for their weekly audience since the pandemic began.”

The not-so subtle message is “We know you hate Johnson the Queen hates him too.”



Added to this ‘a source close to the royal household’  (wink wink) tells us “They want them not to look like visitors but to look like residents”.

The ‘they’ in this sentence is its own marvel.

Like Herge’s Thompson Twins Kate and Wills will blend-in with the locals at Balmoral and St Andrews.

But alongside the pantomime we’re told on page two of other areas discussed: the Turing university exchange scheme – which replaces (completely inadequately) the EU Ersasmus programme – offering the tantalising prospect of offering student exchanges within different parts of the UK. A game changer. Second we’re told that “more money will be spent on transport links within the UK”. HS2 anyone? Finally we’re told that British diplomats will be told to refer to the UK as one country rather than “the four nations of the UK”.

Whatever happened to Boris’s ‘Awesome Foursome’? What happened to the ‘Family of Nations’? Where’s the rhetoric about ‘Equal partners’? Gone gone gone and replaced with a twin plan of a) using an unelected royal in a completely unconstitutional way because we hate the Prime Minister we didn’t elect, and pretending this is normal and b) pretending we don’t exist.

The tactic is well-worn. In 1822 – two hundred years ago – King George IV visited Edinburgh; the first by a reigning monarch to visit for more than 150 years.


The new tactics will attract the same ridicule as they did in 1822 but they are worth noting. They are certainly a sign of desperation but the idea that in 2021 this is coming from “the Palace” or “Courtiers” is as laughable as ‘Georgie, Porgie, Pudding and Pie’ was in 1822. The idea that Scotland can be made to ‘not exist’ by not referring to it is Magical Unionism. But the idea that we are not so far beyond this point is testimony to the fact that the British state is redeploying tactics they last in 1822 and their complete inability to grasp that Scotland ‘exists’ in the twenty-first century in a way that they simply can’t comprehend.

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  1. Micheal MacGilleRuadh says:

    I imagine more efforts will be made to foster British teams in sports, just wait for the Great British Football team to rear its head again! One of successes of the British effort to diminish the idea of Scotland was the formation of Border TV which provides news to to the likes of Galloway about goings on in Penrith and Kendal. That has been effective in some way in weakening the sense of Scotland in the south.

    1. Tom Ultuous says:

      That ship has already sailed. Shortly after Johnson supposedly single-handedly brought the European super league to it’s knees he was advocating a new “British Super League” in the hope of getting Scottish football fans to vote against independence. As if the English want a Manchester riot on their hands every second week. Suspiciously there was no mention of the sevco riots on the national news lest it should act as a reminder to them.

    2. Colin Robinson says:

      That said, Michael, the sheep-prices in the markets of Penrith and Kendal are of much greater relevance to me than the fish-prices in Peterheid or the stairheid rammies in Pollockshields. And Carlisle – where ITV Border used to be based before its merger with ITV Tyne Tees – is my nearest hub. Both ‘England’ and ‘Scotland’ are but distant rumours in the transborder world.

      1. Iain MacPhail says:

        A fair point Colin. And I do hope you are happy to pay £9000 a year for your kids university tuition (after all, the lack of stairheed rammies in England led Nick Clegg to fold on that issue, so only kids in Scotland have their life-improving opportunities publicly funded).

        And maybe, in your dotage, you’ll pop over the border to receive your elderly care in wonderful Carlisle, where they make you pay (it’s not free there).

        And those prescriptions we get for free…and that baby box…and so on and so forth.

        Look, no-one doubts there’s a spot of cross-Border convenience. But the UK is in its last days, and I’d expect a lot of decent folk in Carlisle & elsewhere in Northern England (and possibly in some numbers) to be house hunting on the northern side of the border when our more internationalist future materialises here in Scotland.

        Meantime, all best

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          There’s no doubt I’ve taken advantage of all the favour-currying middle-class benefits you mention (with the exception of the baby box). Who wouldn’t? (And why on earth would I have paid for my ex-children to go to university when they’re big hairy-*rs*d adults who were perfectly capable of working to pay for themselves?)

          But my point was that ITV Border provides news that’s local to the Scotland/England border region, which is more useful to us than the ‘Scottish’ news that comes out of Glasgow. Michael seemed to think this was a Bad Thing.

          1. Micheal MacGilleRuadh says:

            Colin, thanks for your comments. I can genuinely say that you are the first person I’ve ever come across who appreciates Border TV. Good for you! Maybe it is geographic proximity that makes this TV station relevant to you, we are unfortunate to be included in Border TV but live in Galloway and our orientation is more towards Ayr and Stranraer than Carlisle. Galloway doesn’t feel part of the Borders and hence the general view here is that the service is useless.
            Maybe Border TV could have its boundaries redrawn to just serve the parts of Scotland that are deeply cross border integrated in one way or another.

          2. Colin Robinson says:

            Well, I haven’t watched TV for a long, long time, but when I did I always found ITV Border’s output execrable in terms of its production values. But it did have the great virtue of being local rather than national in its news coverage. When I did have a telly, I used to always tune into Border News and Lookabout (a.k.a. Border Crack and Deekabout) for the content.

            I can sympathise with Gallowegians who have been lumped in with the transborder folk, though. Has no one in that airt used digital media to broadcast your own news and perspectives?

  2. Maclean says:

    Sorry to see the Royals being used by the colonist Scots hating few masquerading as unionists in a failed ideal based on abuse and bulling. Like racism, unionism should be condemned to history as the murdering, torture, slavery, intimidation and abuse from the Fear Factory better known as Westminster is over . You can’t build on the rotten foundations of an evil history and you can’t stand with those who use that evil times to intimidate the people of today .

  3. Tom Ultuous says:

    Chick and his tart becoming king & queen would help the cause.

    1. Anna says:

      That sexist term is disappointing from you, Tom.

      1. Colin Robinson says:

        Not as disappointing as some of the racist stuff he’s been coming away with on other threads.

        1. Tom Ultuous says:

          Keep soundbiting Colin. It worked for the Lordly ones media pals regarding so called Labour antisemitism

      2. Tom Ultuous says:

        My apologies Anna.

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          Don’t be sorry, Tom; be careful.

        2. Anna says:

          Accepted, Tom.
          I’m no royalist; I just don’t like females getting namecalled when a man in the same situation wouldn’t – or vice versa.

          1. Colin Robinson says:

            I just don’t like to see the casual demonising of others full-stop.

      3. Tom Ultuous says:

        To be honest Anna I was quite chuffed you were disappointed in me. I thought I was invisible to everyone except Colin.

        1. Alistair Taylor says:

          @Tom LOL.

  4. SleepingDog says:

    This basically exposes the ill-kept secret that UK royals must espouse and practice an extreme right-wing form of imperial politics. Top diplomats are appointed by and take their steer from the monarch. There is little the UK public can do electorally about foreign policy or constitutional change, and even less opportunity for the non-voting parts of the British Empire. So, no face-to-face handover of the nuclear rugger-ball when Johnson got hospitalised? However did we survive invasion by Russian/China/France/whoever? Anyway, is it a rugger-ball, or does it look more like one of those ceremonial orbs (in late holy hand-grenade style, perhaps) knocking about the crown jewel cupboards? Embarrassing to mix them up. Oops, it’s only the third secret sherry decanter. Oops, it’s the nuclear button.

  5. Jane A MacLeod says:

    They’ll be learning a bit of Gaelic next 😉

    1. James Mills says:

      …but only so they can have their ( many) self-appointed titles in another language . It please them so !

  6. Iain MacLean says:

    The windsor’s have to “visit” Scotland!

    The windsor’s “live in” England!

    There’s the difference!

    A future unelected head of state by accident of birth in another country, undermining democracy in Scotland, it’s difficult not to see the hypocrisy displayed by the windsor’s and their contempt towards the intelligence of the Scottish people!

    They must think we button up the back!

  7. Alex Montrose says:

    when Lady Di died, the Queen was on hols at Balmoral, Tony Blair the British media et al, demanded she return to Buck House to be with “her people”, so you see, we are not “her people” after all.

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      Does any of this grudge-and-grievance narrative actually matter? Or is it just part of a ritual observance of the liturgical service that is the Royal Family?

      1. BSA says:

        Oh dear ! From parochial platitudes about the border to ‘grudge and grievance’. What range you have. It matters because as long as these two clothes horses have a constitutional future we are subjects instead of citizens and we will serve the state instead of the state serving us.

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          Yes, as I’ve argued elsewhere, this is the narrative of ‘the Royal Family’ into which both sides – the fawners and the detractors – buy.

          But the whole Royal Family thing’s merely a sleight of hand that misdirects us; an Aunt Sally that the establishment maintains as an amusement attraction for us to ‘Ooh!’ and ‘Ah!’ or throw missiles at, depending on which part we’ve elected to play in the ritual drama; part of the circus-part of the bread-and-circuses that keep us safely entertained and out of any real mischief.

          Don’t get taken in by it!

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Colin Robinson, utter tosh; you are the one frantically attempting to distract from the sinister actuality that the British royals (far from merely a show) are an extremely secretive (and now their correspondence is excluded from Freedom of Information) way of running a nation (actually still very much an empire), effectively privatising levers of state control in the hands of the pre-eminent organised crime family, which infests the hierarchy of organisation after organisation.
            https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/series/queens-consent (also includes Prince’s Consent)
            This was very apparent when I studied contemporary issues in British politics some decades ago. Of course, in the UK, official secrecy is so secret much of its very existence (let alone content) is secret. A state of affairs that has not gone unnoticed by the Scottish Information Commissioner’s Office.

          2. Colin Robinson says:

            Aye! Right, SD! And the Queen Mother was a bookie’s runner!

  8. Robbie says:

    Thought the Plan was for uncle Edward and auntie Sophie to move up to Scotland and settle in Edinburgh this would give the rest of the royals “ legitimate excuse to come to Scotland on the pretext to “visit the Family” thus entrenching themselves without annoying the f**k out of us. Anyway the fun n games will start when the queen goes” whichever way “ Charlie n camilla or Will n Kate, the bingo callers.

  9. Derek says:

    “Diana at 60”.

    Still deid, despite the fervent prayers of the Daily Excess…

  10. florian albert says:

    Years ago, I remember Iain Macwhirter describing how, when he was political editor of a Scottish Sunday newspaper, he was phoned late one Saturday afternoon, by one of his bosses, demanding that he produce a story for the front page lead.
    Since then, I have taken even less notice of front page lead stories than the rest of the newspaper.
    I, for one, had already heard that the Union of the Crowns took place in 1603, before being informed of this by yesterday’s Sunday Times.

    1. Sorry? I don’t really understand the point you’re trying to make?

      1. florian albert says:

        The point is that it was not much of a story. It was mostly ‘waffle’. (Why else include details from 1603 and 1707 ?) Newspapers are full of it, even the front page of a best selling Sunday newspaper. It is one of the reasons so few people buy newspapers these days.

        1. It’s a strange argument though that newspapers front pages arent important

          1. florian albert says:

            Not really. Next time you are in a supermarket, look at the assembled front pages. How many of the stories that you see in front of you are important ?
            In fairness, some of the tabloids do not even pretend to be important; they are in the entertainment, not the news, business.
            Even those which still view themselves as serious newspapers, often struggle to have a comparably serious lead story.

          2. So, they put their least important story on the front page?


          3. Colin Robinson says:

            I see your point, florian. The job of the newspaper editor is not to deliver news but to sell newspapers, with lead stories serving the function of a hook; that is, as something to attract customers’ attention and encourage them to buy the paper itself. The importance of a story – the prominence it’s given by an editor – is thus at least primarily determined by its effectiveness as a marketing tool rather than by any other evaluative criterion, such as the quality of the journalism that produced it.

            Seems fair enough.

    2. Maxwell macleod says:

      I see so your point is that a pro independence writer was phoned by his editor and asked to write something.

      1. florian albert says:

        As I wrote, it was years ago, long before Iain Macwhirter supported independence. Again, he was not asked to ‘write something’ but to come up with a front page lead story.

  11. Ian S says:

    Agreed that to a rational observer the tactics are ridiculous – but this stuff works.

    The most entrenched power in the UK is flexing its political power like it didn’t in 2014, the only way it can but crucially in a way that will resonate with hundreds of thousands of sympathetic Scots.

    It could be read as a sign of desperation, a sign that the powers that be perceive things are not going well politically at the moment. But, I fear Scotland and Britain is not ready to shed this comfort blanket just yet. In other words, yes it’s a load of nonsense, but I fear it’s the kind of nonsense that does exactly the job its designed to do.

    Rhetorical question: What is the best method to rebut an argument that is self-evidently absurd, outdated and based on entrenched privilege?

    I really don’t know the answer, it has been a mystery my whole life and I suspect it will remain one to me – but, the argument still, after all, seems to work.

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      ‘The most entrenched power in the UK is flexing its political power like it didn’t in 2014, the only way it can but crucially in a way that will resonate with hundreds of thousands of sympathetic Scots.’

      Get a grip man! It was a Royal Visit. They happen all the time. Business as usual. Nothing to get excited about.

      1. Iain MacLean says:

        A royal visit?

        A clandestine meeting with Brown, a man yelling the Scottish Government to drop independence and focus on Covid recovery, meanwhile Brown is setting up campaigns to save the union and seeking support from the tories and business, whilst completely ignoring we are in a pandemic!

        The hypocrisy of unionism is staggering, involving future unelected head of states to undermine the democratic process in Scotland really takes the biscuit!

        If Mr Windsor was meeting with labour or tory politicians in England outside of his “royal duties”, would this be business as usual?

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          How did the royal visit undermine the democratic process?

          It’s just a piece of participatory theatre; an Aunt Sally, in which you’ve become an enthusiastic participant.

        2. Ian S says:

          @Iain, let’s ignore it, it doesn’t matter seems to be the argument given below.

          1. Colin Robinson says:

            That’s right, Ian; ignore it, reject it utterly as a thing, refuse to engage with it, deprive it of the recognition on which its power depends. Applied Gandhi!

    2. SleepingDog says:

      @Ian S, one approach would be based on the hypothesis that whatever they think of their own royalty, other peoples’ royalty tends to appear ridiculous. I remember one BBC news item from a few years back disparaging the displays of public enthusiasm for North Korea’s political dynasty, immediately followed by identical displays of British public enthusiasm for the British royal dynasty. Nothing like resonant cognitive dissonance for (eventually) achieving a psychological conversion. You might heap on stories from royal regimes round the world (Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Spain) and provide investigative journalism from courtier life. Why have we no hidden camera or mic recordings of the top royals? Channel 4 Dispatches did recently trap one of the senior royals with a lucre-grubbing sting, and although the result was perhaps unedifying rather than a call to pitchforks after their lawyers got through with it, it all helps to rub some of the lustre off. During various stages of Anglo-British royalism, the monarch was advised to avoid provoking comparisons with Popery, absolute French monarchy and Turkish despotism (amongst others).

      Anyway, I would again recommend the (surprisingly hard-hitting) And What Do You Do? What the Royal Family Don’t Want You to Know (2020) by Norman Baker, and there is of course the dedicated opposition: https://www.republic.org.uk

      British royalty relies on people not asking too many questions. I suggest asking those.

      1. Colin Robinson says:

        The whole Royal Family narrative, in which we’re all complicit as either fawners or spitters, is indeed ridiculous. But that’s surely part of its fairground charm, its very ‘Britishness’.

        1. James Mills says:

          ”Britishness ‘ ? More Greek-German , eh ?

          1. Colin Robinson says:

            I was referring to that aspect of the ritual narrative of our republic, to which we refer as ‘the Royal Family’, rather than to the family itself.

            (In any case, aren’t they British nationals insofar as it’s the civic life of the UK they participate in?)

          2. SleepingDog says:

            @Colin Robinson, the UK is not a republic. Why is that so difficult for you to understand? Maybe you had poor teachers, maybe you were self-taught; I imagine, both.
            Royalty was part of the national mythos of Republican Rome, in the sense that it was publicly abhorred and the ousting of the rapist Tarquin dynasty was celebrated as a great liberation and righting of injustice. Noted republican William Shakespeare devoted an epic poem to Lucretia, which some day I might get around to reading. Kingship is essentially private ownership of the state. You cannot correct it by simply replacing a ‘bad’ king with another (a process that generally leads to serious civil strife). The system itself is corruptive and nepotistic. And anyway, they tend to maintain armed forces who function as a personal bodyguard.

            There are very material reasons for investigating the British royal family. That is, after all, what Unexplained Wealth Orders are for.

          3. Colin Robinson says:

            Yes, it is, SD; res publica = a realm of public affairs. The UK is such a realm, a state, a commonwealth, a ‘republic’. I’ve already explained all this.

            My very point is that the Royal Family, as an institution rather than as an actual family unit, is part of the mythos of our republic, functioning much as a fairground Aunt Sally used to do – as a ritual object of both cheers and pelters. Observing the ritual of the Royal Family, whether as an object of adoration or enmity, is one of the things that unites us as participants in the realm of public affairs or civic life; that is, as citizens.

            This isn’t to say moralistically that the Royal Family is a Good or a Bad Thing; it’s just an anthropological observation of its function as mythos and ritual in the formation of our collective character as an antisyzygy (a set of duelling polarities within one entity – in this case, our republic).

          4. SleepingDog says:

            @Colin Robinson, you have not ‘explained’ anything, you have asserted, and wittered. Some of the affairs of the royals are less in the public domain than anyone else’s: such as their sealed wills (everyone else’s wills have to be public) and whether they have looted artefacts in their households. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/mar/25/revealed-police-barred-from-searching-queens-estates-for-looted-artefacts
            They can also exercise non-cooperation with domestic and foreign police forces. So much secrecy surrounds them, that every day new revelations may shock and disturb the public, hence the need for enormous and costly propaganda campaigns (royal documentaries often feature the tantalising words ‘secret’ in their titles, even if they are hardly masterpieces of investigative journalism). Secretly lock away family members in asylums and hide their existence for decades? Why not? Keep secret accounts of your private estates stolen from the public? You bet! Privately lobby for every taxpayer subsidy they can put their clammy claws on? They’re on a roll! MPs call for a register of royal interests? Not on Tony Blair’s watch!

            Enthusiastic adopters of the Nolan Principles for public life, they ain’t.

            And the role of the royal family is not restricted to the UK, far from it. How do you assess their impact around the world? Particularly, their cosy relationships with foreign royals and dictators? Hushed-up gaffs, blunders and offences aside. In the chapter The Grand Old Duke of Sleaze, (And What Do You Do? What the Royal Family Don’t Want You to Know), Norman Baker covers the ‘diplomatic’ career of Prince Andrew, and writes that the official evaluation of Andrew’s overseas role kept secret (after spending £4m with £10m security costs) who continued his role after being stood down. Assessment: “in general he seems drawn to tyrants and torturers in his choice of contacts and countries” (p265). Where did money for £13m ski chalet, or £7.5m for Royal Lodge refurbishment come from? You or would have to account for such unexplained wealth.

          5. Colin Robinson says:

            Yes, SD. And in saying all that, you’re observing the ritual of the Royal Family as much as you would be were you waving a wee Union Jack at the Queen outside Crathie Kirk.

            The task is rather to disrupt the ritual, as I’m doing here.

            (You don’t have a clue what I’m on about or, indeed, what I’m about. Do you?)

          6. SleepingDog says:

            @Colin Robinson, your efforts appear to be as disruptive as a fart in a hurricane, and as dangerous to the establishment as a posh hat, through which you appear to be talking.

            Let us remind ourselves of the Seven Principles of Public Life (also known as the Nolan Principles) and ponder how well royalism serves these:
            1 Selflessness
            2 Integrity
            3 Objectivity
            4 Accountability
            5 Openness
            6 Honesty
            7 Leadership

            My interests and concerns include good governance, removing the abuses of the royal prerogative (including their nuclear threat to life on Earth), improving collective decision-making, setting good examples in public life, planning ahead for emergencies and preserving the richness and health of life on the planet, reparations to those still suffering from the injustices of the British Empire to be paid firstly from royal riches (#royalreparations), and developing the political skills of people everywhere. Your interests and concerns appear to include royalist sycophancy, self-praise and dogmatic obfuscation.

            You appear to be claiming that there are no rational reasons for opposing the British hereditary monarchy and institution of the royal family, whilst giving no rational reason for supporting them. Yet when I produce suchlike manifold rational reasons, you disappear behind a self-created smokescreen (or perhaps squid ink from a frightened cephalopod would be more apt). I might have a clue what you are about, but in any event, why should I care? These principles of good government are far more important than the machinations of individuals.

          7. Colin Robinson says:

            Aye, but the civic ritual of the Royal Family, in which you’re participating, is (as I’ve said) a misdirection that distracts us from the structural nature of our self-alienation; namely, the capitalist relations of production that shape our lifeworlds in both their subjective and objective aspects.

            And the Nolan Principles are right and right enough, but they’re no less utopian an ideology than the Royal Family is.

      2. Ian S says:

        @sleepingDog, thanks for the suggestions. I think I’ll read that book you mentioned.

        I like your idea of reflecting back the absurdity of it all. But I feel it would be lost on those who a) don’t care or b) just think it’s a bit of British Fun, or both.

        Personally I like the idea of a republic, so I’ll check out your link too. Right now I would settle for a healthier scepticism. Fairground distraction it ain’t. Funny how even talking about it seems to mean I’ve already lost the argument? 😀

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          That’s precisely it, Ian; the whole discourse around the Royal Family is framed by the mythos. To even participate in that discourse is to reproduce and give a kind of legitimacy to the social relations of which that mythos is an expression.

          This is a measure of the hegemony in which capitalism holds us; a measure of its totalitarianism.

  12. Alistair Taylor says:

    Time for the peasants to revolt, surely?

    Can we not turn Balmoral into something useful? Like community housing, or an outdoor centre for weans.
    Bring on King Charles and Queen Camilla, bring on King William and Queen Kate….
    Jeezo, what century are we living in?

    And as for Gordon Brown… The knighthood is in the post. What a toad.

    1. James Mills says:

      Better yet , can we not turn Gordon Brown into something useful ?

      A scarecrow for a down-at-heel farmer with a pest problem ; maybe a living wax- model of a dinosaur politician from the 20thC ; a flag pole for yet another Union Flag asserting its authority over North Britons .

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