Tuesday, July 13, 2010

One word, Mr McTernan : desperate

I've heard some desperate excuses for New Labour's failures in office before, but John McTernan's suggestion on Newsnight Scotland that any attempt to repeal the Act of Settlement was doomed to fail because the Queen would have refused to grant Royal Assent really takes the biscuit. Let's take that insane idea literally just for a moment - if we genuinely have a hereditary monarch who still thinks she has the right on her own whim to veto legislation passed on a democratic basis by the people's representatives, then quite clearly there's an aspect of our constitution that needs to be reformed even more urgently than discrimination against Catholics. This country's (often rather tenuous) claims to be a parliamentary democracy hinge on the assumption that the Queen will never, ever veto a piece of legislation, no matter how much it troubles her conscience. I'm not a monarchist, but I seem to have considerably more faith in the Queen's absolute adherence to that vital principle than McTernan does.

There was, admittedly, a brief constitutional crisis in Belgium a few decades ago, caused by the King's unwillingness to put his pen to a law liberalising access to abortion. But instead of the politicians doing what McTernan seems to be suggesting - ie. shrugging their shoulders and saying "well, if the monarch doesn't like it then we'll just have to forget about democracy this time" - they found a simple mechanism by which the King was temporarily declared unfit to perform his duties, and someone else was able to sign the law in his place. The King's conscience remained intact.

So, nice try, John, but this "we couldnae do it, because the Queen wouldnae sign" excuse just isn't going to fly.


  1. One problem for any attempts to repeal the English Act of Settlement 1701 is that the Act only applies to England was extended to cover Scotland via the Treaty of Union. In fact this was one of the main drivers for the Treaty of Union, to ensure that the Scots did not choose a different King to England at some time in the future which they were perfectly entitled to do at the time.

    To allow a catholic Scottish Monarch they would have to repeal Article 2 of the Treaty of Union.

    Another problem is that the Act of Settlement in England was also superceded by the Treaty of Union Article 2 since the Treaty of Union applies to England as much as it does to Scotland and they would have to repeal that article of the Treaty of Union to allow a catholic English Monarch on the throne, not just amend the Act of Settlement.

    Nobody in the British state wants to go near the Treaty of Union in case it derails their Britishness agenda.

    Like a lot of Labour politicians John McTernan hasn't a clue about what he's talking about.

  2. Yes, I think the likes of Jim Murphy wanted to have their cake and eat it. He had no intention of doing anything about it for the reasons you give, but he wanted Catholics to know he was with them in his heart.