I loved the Twitter post from an Irish friend who said pupils at his local primary school in a posh part of Edinburgh had taken in items to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee only for one small child to unfurl a Union Jack with ‘F*** the Pope’ emblazoned across it.
It is that confusion about flags, about royalty, about Scotland and about our identity within the UK that has been at the forefront of my thinking this last week as our television told us one thing about the Queen and our Scottish streets told us another.
There were just 100 street closures for party celebrations in Scotland compared with 9,500 in England and while Alex Salmond played down our more muted response to the Diamond Jubilee as just a ‘different style’, in reality, there is more of an indifference to the monarchy here than elsewhere.
Actually, I don’t mind ‘Her Royal Maj’, she seems to work reasonably hard, shakes a lot of hands, takes her constitutional role seriously and has an affection for Scotland which can be no bad thing. But on balance, as a vehement believer in democracy, of course, I would prefer to have an elected head of state; one I helped choose, based on ability not bloodline and one whose existence wasn’t a tacit dividing line between those who have and those who have not.
I happily accept that there is a tremendous amount of goodwill for the Queen – she’s been there for 60 years – and I am sure she does a lot of good work but that does not detract from my inherent belief that the royals legitimise a system of elitism in Great Britain that I cannot condone.
From them flows a system of patronage, pecking order and pap that is abhorrent to me in 21st-century Britain. They sit at the apex of privilege, ensuring the continued existence of a society riven by class inequality and that is not a nationhood I identify with or wish to belong.
And yet, it seems, like all our modern-day political leaders, I now accept that the Queen is probably a good old stick. She undoubtedly brings joy to some and if I ever reach 100 years old, I’m sure I’ll be so grateful for a telegram from anyone, such that my anarchic views of the monarchy will be lost in a mist of emotion and failed memory.
But I couldn’t possibly call anyone ma’am, doff my cap or curtsey. In short, I see no reason why one person should be revered for simply being born into a particular social strata and I don’t do deference.
I am, at heart, a republican, but the chasm between my ambivalent acceptance of the status quo and of offering full endorsement of the continued existence of the royal institution is vast.
Last week’s events showed me and the rest of the world that huge swathes of the British population love a party and they like the Queen. Polls indicate that 80 per cent of those in England wish to keep the monarchy – although just 40 per cent of Scots – and I accept that. I would rather keep the Queen than Trident but neither is really up for debate.
The Queen has been through good and bad times in her relationship with the people of Britain, but like much else at the moment, she and her jubilee, should be viewed through the prism of the independence referendum and as such, it is her future as much as ours that should be up for debate.
Ed Miliband seized the opportunity during this week of royal celebrations to reclaim the Union Jack and talk about his Englishness and his Britishness and how one identity need not supersede the other. This, he claimed, was an argument for the Union.
But he misses the point. Being Scottish does mean something. Being English has proved harder to define but trying to define either by representing the monarchy as some benign symbol of constitutional fluffiness that spans us all is flawed. The monarchy, no matter how stripped down, still has a profoundly antidemocratic role within the British political, economic and social system.
I did not recognise my Scottishness within the sea of waving Union Jacks or the pomp and pageantry that we witnessed, principally, down south, last week. We sit at an incredible moment in time. A test of true democracy is coming and there are Scots who are not frightened of change but making the monarchy a line in the sand stifles discussion of more radical reform of the institutions that span below it, like the House of Lords, the honours system, the titles, the aristocracy and a feudal legacy which open doors to unfair wealth, contact and opportunity.
I would like to have seen the jubilee spark a keen debate about nationhood, identity and the kind of society we want for our children and our children’s children, whether that be in or out of the Union but so far, that is one diamond that has failed to shine.