The Queen will go to the Palace of Westminster for the State Opening of Parliament next week following the Conservative victory in the General Election but could it be the last time she performs this ancient tradition as ruler of the United Kingdom? While the Tory majority is making headlines around the world, the other big success story of the night was the sweep across Scotland of the SNP which now holds 48 seats. And the party’s leader, Nicola Sturgeon, has said that’s a mandate for a new referendum on independence for Scotland leading to the question of whether Elizabeth II will soon be the first Queen of England since the 18th century.
Admittedly, we might be getting ever so slightly ahead of ourselves. The dust hasn’t yet settled on the General Election results but the swing to the Scottish Nationalist Party means that ”indyref2” will be one of the major talking points of the coming months. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, has said she will be getting in touch with Boris Johnson imminently to request the power to hold another vote on whether Scotland should become independent.
However, despite devolution in Scotland, it’s the Westminster government which still holds power over constitutional matters. When the last referendum on independence was held, in 2014, London used a mechanism called Section 30 to allow the Edinburgh parliament to call a legal referendum. The people of Scotland voted by 55% to 45% to remain as part of the United Kingdom in that ballot.
During the election campaign, Nicola Sturgeon said she would contact Downing Street within days of the poll to request the power to hold another referendum. She is expected to write to Boris Johnson within days now. And she has also said that she will consider a legal challenge if he refuses to allow the poll on independence although she stated that any vote on secession had to be legal. Opponents of the SNP have criticised plans for another independence referendum.
The Crowns of Scotland and England merged in 1707 in the Act of Union. The last monarch to hold the separate titles of Queen of England and Queen of Scotland was Queen Anne. The last King of England and King of Scotland was William III.