Call for greater transparency over monarch's role in vetting legislation

King Charles at the Palace of Holyroodhouse
King Charles at the Palace of Holyroodhouse

THE Scottish LibDems are calling for greater transparency from the Government after an investigation exposed the crown’s covert power and influence over Scottish legislation.

A Guardian investigation, published earlier this summer, exposed a memo that suggested laws had been amended in order to secure Queen Elizabeth’s approval in the mechanism known as Crown Consent

The memo suggested that the monarch vetted 67 acts, the majority dealing with property taxation, planning laws, and protections from tenants.

The Scottish Government stated that it “engages in correspondence with representatives of The Queen as part of the process of consideration of how the Bill applies to the Crown and Crown Consent”.

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It went on: “Where it is anticipated that Crown consent will be required, SGLD engage with the Queen’s Solicitor in Scotland to discuss the implications of the relevant provision.

“Information about how legislation applies to the Crown and whether Crown Consent is required can be debated and scrutinised by Parliament.”

Cole-Hamilton stated: “This response barely scratches the surface. This SNP government policy would ensure we still remain utterly in the dark.

“The Scottish Government should instead specifically list any changes made to legislation at the request of the Crown’s lawyers when it arrives at and goes through Parliament.”

The Government’s decision to only clarify which bills apply and whether Crown Consent is required has been criticised for lacking transparency on a process that has been described as a “back channel that sneaks amendments into legislation.”

Cole-Hamilton continued: “The revelations represented an astonishing overturning of the widely held principle that the monarch does not legislate for their own benefit.

“Everyone deserves to know how their laws are being made because transparency and scrutiny are pillars of our democracy.”

The Scottish Government told The Guardian “while [the Scottish Government] welcomes transparency in relation to this process, it is important that the government protects the necessary private space ministers and officials require to explore issues and develop policy.”

The Crown Consent mechanism, which operates in the UK, Scottish and Welsh parliaments, ensures that any proposed laws cannot be implemented without the approval of the sitting monarch if the bill might affect their public powers of private interests.

This includes all privately owned estates owned by the crown, including the royal estate of Balmoral.

The Guardian investigation exposed that Queen Elizabeth’s lawyers had secretly lobbied Scottish ministers to ensure the Crown’s estate was exempt from major environmental initiatives, making the Queen the only private landlord not required to heat buildings using renewable energy.