The Daily Telegraph
She let us all know every inch of Union was precious
Through decency and deep affection, Her Majesty nullified enmity of those who would break us apart
Even in the manner of her going she was the personification of unity and Union. Throughout her 70-year reign perhaps her biggest success has been the maintenance, in spite of their many disputes, of the unity of the English and Scots on both a personal level and, constitutionally, in their 300-year Union in Great Britain.
That she died in the house and the country that she loved and which she so clearly regarded as home is tremendously sad. But her affection for Scotland and its people has not been lost on a disputatious people who are not easily hoodwinked. And that Scotland remains part of her realm, as a result, is due largely to her often unseen efforts and genuine interest in those she so assiduously served.
Of course it was unfortunate that her progressive ill health prevented her from appointing her new prime minister in Buckingham Palace, as is the tradition.
But by having both the outgoing and incoming premiers make the 1,000mile round trip to Balmoral Castle cemented Scotland’s place at the heart of the United Kingdom.
It may be difficult to record that her dying at Balmoral in Scotland further highlighted that … it’s a fact, nevertheless.
She did it in large measure by exuding a calmness, for which the word “regal” was the most appropriate description, and a quiet determination to let everyone know that every inch of the Union over which she reigned was precious to her.
The result has been the defusing of much of the enmity that has sometimes surfaced by the simple tactic of displaying her affection for all her subjects. Most suffered no embarrassment by the term; instead, for the majority, there was only pride in the fact that she was their sovereign.
In the case of the Scots and Scotland, Queen Elizabeth – and always remember that she was the “First” in that country, not the “Second” – demonstrated an affinity for the people and the nation that couldn’t but be noticed or fail to impress even the hardest-nosed independence-loving republican – of which there are more than a few.
It would be a gross exaggeration to claim that she disarmed them totally.
But, from a personal point of view, I am often astonished at how, largely by a fabulous cocktail of decency and genuine concern for their problems, she has managed to keep the loyalty of her northern kingdom.
I’m certain I can remember details of the street party we had on the day of the Coronation, June 2, 1953. I was four years old, and in my memory bank there are images of street-long tables between the tenements in my hometown, and plates and plates of white-bread sandwiches. I remember, too, later that day, sleeping and waking up on a coach as it carried my brother, me and all the neighbourhood adults on a tour of every local hostelry in the immediate vicinity of Dundee, my home town.
However, while it is marvellous that Queen Elizabeth lived so long, what I find even more astonishing is that, after a lifetime of reporting British and Scottish politics, I can’t quite believe that her domain has remained intact 70 years after she ascended the throne. I wouldn’t have bet a whole lot on that being the case.
Rampant nationalism-cumrepublicanism has reared its head in Scotland on several occasions during her reign – so much so that it always looked an even bet that the strain would grow so dominant that Britain would be broken up. And it would have been, had it not been for this lady.
A combination of her fantastic adherence to the ‘keep calm and carry on’ attitude of that marvellous wartime generation, which she was an exemplar, plus a determination not to treat the nationalist leaders any differently from other politicians, saw her nullify much of the noises-off from that direction.
And it was her beloved Balmoral Castle that was at the heart of her effort.
What was incredible was the way she dealt with the leaders of the SNP, the majority of whose members, it should be remembered, oppose the monarchy.
Instead of shunning them, she did the opposite. She treated them in exactly the same as she’s done with all the 15 prime ministers she’s dealt with over her seven decades on the throne.
Lest anyone forget, the main aim of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon is the break-up of her United Kingdom and also to convene a referendum on whether she or her successors should remain head of state for Scotland.
The nationalist leaders were, like UK leaders, made privy councillors – the monarch’s closest advisers; they regularly met Her Majesty and briefed
‘She demonstrated an affinity for the nation that couldn’t but be noticed by the hardest-nosed republican’
her on their programmes for government; they, and their spouses, were invited to spend time at Balmoral – usually staying a day and a night; and were always invited to meet and brief Her Majesty when she stayed at her official Scottish Royal residence, The Palace of Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh.
One courtier who witnessed Sturgeon being sworn in as a privy councillor was quoted in Robert Hardman’s book, Queen, as saying it was a “quintessentially British” occasion, adding: “Every possible courtesy was extended to her by everyone, including the Queen.
“You’d never have known that this was a person who wants to rip up the whole constitution.
“Nicola Sturgeon was equally respectful and observed all the courtesies in return.”
Another senior source, who has watched Her Majesty in action with the nationalist leaders, said: “She hasn’t treated them any differently to any of the other political leaders she’s dealt with. She greets them politely and treats them very warmly.
“She charms people by being polite.” Balmoral was also at the centre of a royal masterstroke. With only days to go before the 2014 independence referendum she told a group of women outside Crathie Kirk, near the castle, that she hoped everyone would think carefully before voting on such an important issue.
Once her words were reported in the media her opposition to independence was clear and had an influence on the nationalists’ defeat.
Just as it has been in the past few days as well as, sadly, with her death, Queen Elizabeth’s favourite home on Royal Deeside was central to the Union.