THE only thing certain in the modern world is that there is no certainty. Institutions that we assumed were woven into the fabric of the country can crumble and fall.

Trends that seem to take root and lead to inexorable conclusions can suddenly stop in their tracks and even reverse. It’s almost impossible to feel we are standing on solid ground.

And that is not necessarily a bad thing.


A little more than a year ago, the death of the queen signalled an outpouring not only of grief but of genuine love. People lined the streets to watch her coffin pass. Someone we did not know personally had come to symbolise a way of life we respected and trusted.

Along with many others who dream of a monarchy-free Britain, I was baffled, but that wave of affection could not be denied, even if it was not universally felt.

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For us, the royal family represent an outmoded and repressive class system that has to be dismantled to allow modern, progressive values to hold sway.

We had fondly imagined that the death of the queen would represent a breaking with outmoded traditions which no longer served any useful purpose in the 21st century.

But the queen’s passing was followed by the coronation of King Charles (below) in a ceremony adorned with pomp and pageantry and watched by millions. It seemed the regal right to rule had passed almost unaffected from one generation to the next.

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But something has changed. The anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s death was virtually ignored by a world which has moved on to other news. Looking back, the tone of the coverage of her death – the unquestioning assumption that we were all in the depths of despair at her passing – seems unfathomable now.

We have grown tired of the alienating display of wealth that is still a hallmark of life in Buckingham Palace, we have waited in vain for the much-heralded promise to slim down the cripplingly expensive enlarged royal family to bear some sort of fruit. We watch in annoyance and anger as the royals themselves are split by feuds and more worrying accusations of racism.

The naming this week of two alleged “royal racists” in the Dutch edition of Omid Scobie’s book Endgame (the cover of which promises to go “inside the royal family and the monarchy’s fight for survival”) has descended into a guessing game over who was responsible for the revelation rather than outrage at the racist views expressed.

Nevertheless, the reverberations from Harry and Meghan’s shocking interview with Oprah Winfrey continue to affect senior members of the royal family who stand accused of holding some pretty reactionary views.

Add to that the frankly ridiculous news that Charles and William are taking millions of pounds every year from the estates of people who die without a will. To make matters worse, Charles has been using the money to upgrade his already extensive property empire.

Who would disagree with Graham Smith of the campaign group Republic when he says that “raiding the pockets of the dead is obscene and the system needs to be scrapped”?

Smith has also referred to a new poll by Savanta – showing that support for continuing the monarchy in the UK has slumped to 52%, with 34% preferring an elected head of state – as “a watershed moment for the anti-monarchy movement”.

I recently attended an interesting event held by Republic Scotland which explored, among other topics, alternatives to the monarchy.

A panel which included Maggie Chapman (below) of the Greens, MSP Emma Roddick, councillor Fatima Joji and my partner Suzanne McLaughlin discussed a tantalising range of options.

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The republican movement is not yet powerful enough to seriously threaten the monarchy but it’s certainly on the rise. Scotland’s independence proposal in the 2014 referendum did not include the abolition of the monarchy, for good reasons.

Why divide the Yes movement at a time when the top priority is to build a majority for indy?

But as time goes on, the argument to tie independence more firmly to republicanism grows stronger. The SNP’s current policy is clear: Scotland should have a vote on whether to keep or ditch the monarchy once it has achieved its independence.

In May this year, polling from Lord Ashcroft found that most Scots see the monarchy as “mostly an English thing” and would vote to become a republic in the event of independence. Three-quarters of Scots questioned wanted the royal family scaled down and its costs significantly cut back.

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For more and more of us, the chance to wave goodbye to the dysfunctional money pit that is the royal family is becoming yet another reason to leave the failing Union.


The story of falling support for the SNP has been told so often that many voters actually believe it’s true. This week brought conclusive proof that the story is far from over.

The SNP have controlled the Scottish Parliament since 2007 – that’s almost 17 years, through peaks and troughs, the referendum, the pandemic, the cost of living crisis and a fair share of those crises that afflict governments of any and every political hue.

The party has the vast majority of Westminster MPs, is just two short of a majority at Holyrood and is in control of 14 of Scotland’s 32 councils.

Political consensus has it that by this time and after such sustained electoral success, any party would be on its last legs and facing considerable backlash from voters. The recent Labour victory at the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election was seized upon by political analysts desperate for a return to accepted wisdoms.

Unfortunately for them, there were some inconvenient facts that got in the way of that story. The Labour vote in that by-election did not significantly increase. In fact, fewer people voted Labour in 2023 (17,845) than in 2019 (18,545).

Fewer people voted at all in 2023 – a turn-out of just 37.2% compared to 66.5% in 2019. It was the fact that the SNP vote simply didn’t bother to turn out this year that lost them the by-election. The party attracted 8399 votes compared to 23,775 in 2019.

Now, it’s certainly not good news for the SNP that so many of its voters were not motivated to go to the polling stations this year and there’s certainly no room for complacency. But it’s difficult to see that these figures can be interpreted as a Labour “resurgence”, or proof that SNP voters were turning to Labour.

One of two polls published this week showed a far more encouraging position for the SNP than recent reports suggest and for Yes.

Ipsos Mori’s Scottish poll showed the SNP with 40% support at the next UK Westminster General Election, compared to Labour support at 30% and the Tories at 15%. Those figures would translate as the SNP winning 48 MPS, losing to Labour but winning six from the Conservatives. Support for independence was at 54%.

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The poll was carried out between November 26-28.

It wasn’t all good news for the SNP. The Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ monthly Scottish politics tracker showed a Labour lead on 36% at the election, with the SNP on 34%.

However, the combined polls do show the stupidity of accepting as a done deal either the fact that Labour will do particularly well in Scotland or that the SNP will do particularly badly.

The situation remains volatile and party campaigning can still have an important effect on shifting the vote. Except for the Tories. Whatever happens, thankfully they are toast.