Christopher Smout: Queen's historian in row over Scottish independence





THE Queen’s official historian in Scotland has sparked a political row by claiming that the country could flourish as an independent state.

Professor Christopher Smout, the Historiographer Royal, said it was “perfectly feasible” for Scotland to go it alone and that it could prosper in the same way as eastern European republics have done since the break-up of the Soviet Union. He claimed voters south of the border would be happy to see the break-up of the United Kingdom.

He also criticised claims by John Reid, the home secretary, that Scotland’s national security would be compromised by independence, describing his argument as “a complete non-starter”.

Smout, who is emeritus professor of history at St Andrews University, will this week chair a conference in Edinburgh, organised to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union. Ministers have condemned his intervention claiming that, as a member of the Royal household, he should remain politically neutral.

Senior Labour figures said his comments, so close to an election when the future of the Union will be a key issue, were “naive and destabilising” and would be an embarrassment to the Queen.

“It is unfortunate that someone this close to the Queen is coming out with these frankly shallow and not very significant arguments in favour of independence,” said Tom Harris, the Glasgow South MP.

“Politically, it would be better for us to stay in the Union and I would have thought that if a senior member of the Queen’s household did not share that view then they would just keep their mouth shut...."


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