Friday, December 3

Scottish Government Refuses to Release Details of Queen’s Secret Lobbying | Monarchy


The Scottish government refuses to release details about the queen’s secret lobbying of ministers because it would undermine “the semblance of political neutrality” that the monarch adopts in public.

Officials made the shocking admission when they declined to publish private letters from the queen’s Scottish attorney that are believed to detail why he wanted to amend a green energy bill earlier this year.

The Guardian revealed on Wednesday that in February, the queen’s lawyers successfully lobbied Scottish ministers to change a bill to exempt their private land from a major initiative to reduce carbon emissions.

The exemption means that the Queen, one of Scotland’s largest landowners, is the only person in the country who is not required to facilitate the construction of pipes to heat buildings with renewable energy.

An investigation by The Guardian also found that the Queen has examined at least 67 Holyrood laws in Scotland since 1999.

The exemption granted to the Queen in this year’s heating networks bill was revealed in documents obtained by Lily Humphreys, a Scottish Liberal Democrat researcher, under freedom of information laws.

However, the Scottish government has blocked the publication of other documents that would shed more light on how the Queen obtained the exemption.

A senior official said the Scottish government placed more importance on protecting its private discussions with the Queen than being transparent with the public.

“There can be no public interest in disclosing information that damages that relationship and disrupts future communications. In addition, there is a strong public interest in maintaining the long-standing constitutional convention that the correspondence between the sovereign and her government is confidential in nature, ”said the official.

“[If] the content of these consultations was known, it could serve to undermine the appearance of political neutrality of the sovereign, reason why the rights of the sovereign could not be exercised in an effective way without this expectation of confidentiality ”.

Willie Rennie, who recently retired as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: “The SNP’s obstructive approach to freedom of information law is a barrier to progress once again. We do not yet have all the details of how the Scottish government was lobbied to change the law. “

Humphreys is planning an appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner, who oversees freedom of information law in Scotland.

Rennie asked for an “open and honest conversation” about the arcane mechanism of Queen’s Consent.

Under the mechanism, the Queen is given a preview of bills that potentially affect her private property and business interests and her public duties as monarch. These laws cannot be passed by elected politicians until she has passed them.

Liberal Democrats have tabled parliamentary questions at Holyrood calling for a review of these powers and asking the Scottish government how often it has allowed the Queen to scrutinize legislation and change bills before the MSPs vote on them.

Paul Wheelhouse, the minister involved in the bill at the time, said opposition parties were told the heating networks bill was being amended to prevent Balmoral from being subject to compulsory purchase. The MSPs said they were not told it had been amended due to lobbying by the Queen’s lawyers.

The revelations sparked a dispute within the Scottish National Party, which has been in government in Edinburgh for 14 years, over the role that SNP ministers have played in agreeing to this process.

Angus MacNeil, SNP MP for the Western Isles and Chairman of the Commons Trade Committee in Westminster, tweeted: “Surely the Scottish government should be open to the public when the head of state of ANY country seeks an advantage over the common people of the country?”

Wheelhouse denied there had been a cover-up, saying that Scottish ministers were legally bound by legislation passed by Westminster to allow the Queen to examine and change bills in advance.

In an article for The Guardian, Andy Wightman, a land reform expert and former MSP who questioned Wheelhouse about the exemption at Holyrood earlier this year, called on ministers to reject any demands from the Queen’s lawyers to exempt Balmoral. of the new laws.

“If this means that the queen’s consent is refused, then the ministers should go to parliament and make it known,” he said.

“The Scottish Parliament can take the initiative. You cannot remove the legal requirement for Queen’s consent, but you can modify your procedures to require much greater transparency from ministers about what bills require it, when and under what conditions it has been granted, and complete openness about which parts of any bill or any other subsequent bill. Amendments are being tabled at the request of the Queen. “




www.theguardian.com

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