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by Neil Findlay
23 September 2022
Rest in peace, Elizabeth, but let's bring on the republic!

The Queen's coffin drew huge crowds in both Edinburgh and London | Credit: Alamy

Rest in peace, Elizabeth, but let's bring on the republic!

There is no doubt that Elizabeth II lived a remarkable life. Having reigned for over 70 years as one of the world’s most famous people, she travelled extensively, met tens of thousands of people every year and was respected by many the world over.

In her 96 years, she lived through seismic events such as wars, the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall, birth of the internet and other huge societal change. There is no doubt about her total commitment to her public duty. 

But there are also millions of people who have shown our respect for a long life of service, lived in the public eye, but who will now reasonably make the case for an end to the institution of the monarchy and be repelled by the collective hysteria that has gripped the country. 

In the days after her passing, we have had wall-to-wall coverage of every conceivable element of the Queen’s life and death. Sporting events were cancelled with thousands of businesses and workers losing much-needed income, TV and radio stations abandoned normal programming for endless live coverage and interviews with anyone who ever shook the hand of the monarch. 

“Out of respect”, Morrisons supermarket even switched off the beeps on their till scanner.

In an act of great national sacrifice, the Met Office declared that only one weather forecast would be issued per day.

I am not sure the Queen would have been too offended by someone telling us there would be sunshine and showers in the west and a stiff breeze in the north. 

Most concerning of all was the news that at a time when huge numbers of patients are on NHS waiting lists, operations and appointments in some areas have been cancelled on the day of the funeral, leaving ill patients facing further delays. Not just a ludicrous situation but for some, a life-threatening one. 

On Sunday, BBC Scotland showed the royal hearse being driven along a road for six hours with an array of commentators scraping the barrel to fill the airwaves, whilst broadcasters appealed to the public not to leave any more marmalade sandwiches in London parks.  

As I drove along the M8 on Sunday, I passed four double deckers of police officers being transported from Glasgow to Edinburgh to help provide security. For most communities, the sight of one police officer on the beat would be a revelation.  

In central Edinburgh, snipers with high-velocity rifles openly set up shop on the Royal Mile and the roof of the Scottish Parliament. As an MSP for two terms and member of the parliamentary bureau, I can’t remember being briefed on this element of Operation Unicorn. 

Across the country, people were arrested for holding up anti-monarchy placards and a young man in Edinburgh was detained by the police for shouting at Prince Andrew as he walked down the Royal Mile. Earlier this year, the prince paid a financial settlement to a woman who had accused him of sexual assault. 

In the Scottish Parliament, MSPs from parties with a significant republican tradition obediently followed the dress code and strictures laid down by compliant party leaderships (Patrick Harvie excepted). 

Socialists, nationalists, Liberals and Greens silenced, whilst others appeared star-struck by events. Ah… democracy, don’t you just love it!

Back in the real world, the average monthly wage is £109 lower in real terms than this time last year; thousands of families prepare for a cold winter unable to pay soaring fuel bills; food banks are running out of supplies; and supermarkets are security tagging basic food items to try and prevent them from being stolen. You can be sure the beeps on the anti-theft alarms remained on. 

The streets of Edinburgh that the funeral cortege passed along are home to hundreds of the city’s homeless and in the back closes and schemes of our biggest conurbations the drugs deaths crisis unfolds. 

Where is the national mourning for 1,200 lives lost needlessly to drugs every year? 

When will we see hours of relentless coverage and commentary on the food, energy, and cost-of-living crisis?  

When will we hear political leaders address the enormous elephant in the room that entrenches such gross inequality in our society, namely the class system with the monarch at its apex? 

A growing number of people see a hereditary monarchy as an anachronism, a museum relic of a bygone age alongside the House of Lords and the honours system. 

We want to see a democratically elected head of state chosen by the people to represent the country at home and abroad in a non-political role. 

A head of state who lives in a modest home and an end to the extensive, expensive vast estate of properties, vehicles and land and a massive reduction in spending on the civil list, pomp, and rituals. 

These are not radical, wild demands dreamed up by revolutionaries plotting to overthrow the state. 

They are a sensible, modern, and credible alternative to what we just witnessed. 

Rest in peace, Elizabeth – bring on the republic! 

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