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Queen’s Ties to Scotland Add New Wrinkle to Push for Independence

EDINBURGH — With its streets filled with tens of thousands of admirers, Scotland bid a somber farewell to Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday as her coffin made its slow, final journey through a country that helped bond to the British state through her decades of service, her love for the wild Scottish countryside and its own popularity.

The six-hour funeral procession kicked off three days of mourning in central Scotland, which continued on Monday with a journey along Edinburgh’s “Royal Mile”, starting at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the royal residence, before continuing on. to St. Giles’ Cathedral, where the public will have a chance to pay their respects.

It is a symbolic representation of the ties that bind England to its northern neighbour. But it also comes at a time of renewed mobilization for Scottish independence, making approaches difficult for those looking to escape. Political analysts said respect for the Queen and her devotion to Scotland could temporarily dampen the heated debate over independence and perhaps strengthen a union that has been under acute pressure for more than a decade.

“The fact that it happened here strengthens the bond with Balmoral, and the preparations for the funeral have a strong Scottish element,” said James Mitchell, a professor of public policy at the University of Edinburgh, referring to the estate the Queen loved. and the place where she died.

“I’m pretty sure it doesn’t help the SNP,” added Professor Mitchell, referring to the pro-independence Scottish National Party led by Nicola Sturgeon, the prime minister.

Still, Professor Mitchell said, it was unclear in the long run how the queen’s death would affect the independence movement. “It depends on where we will be in a few months or a few years,” he said.

That air of constitutional uncertainty was evident on Sunday, reflected in the front page headline of The Herald newspaper. Above an image of King Charles III it read: “Union’s Savior or Last King of Scotland?”

Mrs. Sturgeon wants to keep the monarchy even if Scotland becomes independent, and King Charles also has close ties to her country; after his marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales, his honeymoon was in Balmoral.

But he faces a major challenge in building the same bond with the Scottish people that his mother has built over decades, and he takes the throne at a time of tension over constitutional issues.

In 2014 Scotland voted against independence, but the British vote for Brexit two years later changed the equation in the eyes of many Scots, a majority of whom wanted to remain in the European Union. They were outnumbered by voters in England and Wales but found their wish rejected, giving impetus to the independence movement.

Ms Sturgeon has called for another referendum on independence next year. The British government has rejected that demand and the matter is being challenged in court, although most analysts say a new vote will not be held anytime soon.

Politically, Scotland and England have gradually drifted apart, with their voters favoring politicians from different parties. But many Scots see the monarchy as Scottish as they do English. And they take their shared monarchical history seriously.

In 1603, after Elizabeth I’s death, James VI of Scotland succeeded her and became James I of England in what was essentially a Scottish takeover of the English crown. A formal union took place a century later in 1707.

When Queen Elizabeth II took the throne in 1952, there were complaints in Scotland that she was known as Queen Elizabeth II because Elizabeth I had ruled England but not Scotland.

Though scrupulously diplomatic, there was little doubt about Queen Elizabeth II’s desire to keep the country united and during the Scottish independence referendum of 2014, she called on people to “think very carefully about the future” before voting. .

Later, David Cameron, the then Prime Minister, apologized for revealing that when he called the Queen to inform her of the result, she had “spun down the line”.

Nevertheless, the pro-independence forces have not only praised the monarchy, which they want to preserve as part of a separate nation, but have also claimed the queen as their own.

“The relationship between Scotland and the Queen was one of shared admiration,” Ian Blackford, the leader of the SNP lawmakers in Westminster, said in a tribute on Friday. “Indeed, while she was the queen of everyone, to many in Scotland she was Elizabeth Queen of Scots.”

“Her Majesty’s roots in Scotland run deep,” he added. “She was descended from the royal house of Stewart on both sides of her family, and her mother was of course from Glamis in Angus.”

On Sunday outside the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Alana McCormick, 35, a Midlothian daycare practitioner, reflected on the Queen’s love for Scotland in general and for Balmoral in particular. From there, her coffin was carried to a waiting hearse by the estate’s gamekeepers at the start of the procession on Sunday morning.

“Personally, I feel like she chose to die here; she knew her time would come,” she said. “She had a love for Scotland and people here have come out in droves.”

“I am not voting for Scotland’s independence,” she added, “and I hope this will put the call for a referendum on the back burner.”

Torquil Corkerton, a military reservist and piper who arrived with four corgis – the Queen’s favorite breed of dog – said the Queen’s death at Balmoral strengthened the bond with Scotland.

As for independence, he said the Queen’s death in Scotland will make no difference to convinced supporters, “but for those who are ambivalent I think it will help strengthen the union.”

James Rivals, 34, who is from Edinburgh and was carrying a bouquet of lilies, said that although he preferred an independent Scotland, he wanted to preserve the monarchy and had come to pay his respects.

In the longer term, the impact of the Queen’s death on Scotland will depend less on the emotions surrounding the funeral and more on King Charles’ success building on the support his mother left behind.

“Ultimately, the monarchy could be useful to the unionist side if there is a referendum,” said Professor Mitchell, “but how useful depends on how popular the monarch is at the time of a referendum.”

“The Queen was very popular,” he added, “and Charles may not enjoy the same popularity as her.”