Queen's Spritely Visit to Scotland Comes at an Important Time for the U.K.

Queen Elizabeth II's visit to Scotland this week comes at an important time for the future of the United Kingdom as a second referendum on Scottish independence is being advocated for.

Reports that Nicola Sturgeon, first minister for Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party, will announce her plans for a referendum come as the queen and members of the royal family are visiting the country as part of the annual "Holyrood week."

This week of official events including garden parties, investitures and ceremonies takes its name from the monarch's official residence in Scotland, the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.

Queen Elizabeth II Visits Scotland
Queen Elizabeth II's visit to Scotland for Holyrood week comes as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon moves ahead with her plans to hold a second independence referendum. The queen photographed in Edinburgh, June 27, 2022. Sturgeon (inset) photographed April 15, 2021. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images/Jeff J Mitchell/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Sturgeon's new referendum would follow the first undertaken in 2014 which asked voters "should Scotland become an independent country?" Despite fierce nationalist campaigning, 55 percent of voters said "no" opposed to 44 percent who responded "yes."

Though she has a constitutional duty to remain apolitical, at the time of the 2014 referendum the queen made a considered comment to a well-wisher outside the church on her Scottish estate ahead of the vote which was widely reported.

The event, which happened just four days before Scots headed to the polls, saw the queen reportedly say: "I hope people will think very carefully about the future."

Subsequently, accusations that the queen's rare comment on such a polarizing political issue had been pre-planned arose in the media. It also followed earlier reporting that the monarch was pro-union and concerned about the prospect of Scottish independence.

In response to these earlier accusations, Buckingham Palace released a swift statement which read: "The sovereign's constitutional impartiality is an established principle of our democracy and one which the Queen has demonstrated throughout her reign.

"As such, the monarch is above politics and those in political office have a duty to ensure this remains the case.

"Any suggestion that the Queen would wish to influence the outcome of the current referendum campaign is categorically wrong. Her Majesty is simply of the view this is a matter for the people of Scotland."

Nicola Sturgeon and Queen Elizabeth II
Nicola Sturgeon and Queen Elizabeth II photographed together at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, July 4, 2018. Jane Barlow/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Reports of the queen's perceived bias towards the union persisted after the results of the vote had been released.

Then-Prime Minister David Cameron made a well publicized gaffe on a visit to New York following the vote in which he told former mayor Michael Bloomberg that the queen "purred" when he called her with the poll outcome.

News cameras picked up Cameron saying: "She purred down the line. I've never heard someone so happy."

In 2019 the former prime minister also told the BBC he had asked for the queen's help in the days leading up to the vote, suggesting that "the raising of an eyebrow" by the monarch could help keep Scotland within the union.

For her part, the queen said that the people of the United Kingdom would "respect" Scotland's decision in a statement following the vote.

"After many months of discussion, debate, and careful thought, we now know the outcome of the Referendum, and it is a result that all of us throughout the United Kingdom will respect," it read.

"Knowing the people of Scotland as I do, I have no doubt that Scots, like others throughout the United Kingdom, are able to express strongly-held opinions before coming together again in a spirit of mutual respect and support, to work constructively for the future of Scotland and indeed all parts of this country.

"My family and I will do all we can to help and support you in this important task."

Nicola Sturgeon has advocated for an independent Scotland for a number of years and published a paper in early June titled: Independence in the modern world. Wealthier, happier, fairer: why not Scotland?

Despite pushback from opposition party leaders in Scotland who have accused Sturgeon's focus on independence of being a "transparent attempt to whip up division and distract from the chaos engulfing the SNP," the first minister continues to move ahead on the issue.

Queen Elizabeth II Ceremony of the Keys
Queen Elizabeth II was presented with the ceremonial key to the city of Edinburgh marking the start to her week of official duties in Scotland. June 27, 2022. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

The queen arrived in Scotland on Monday to undertake a surprise engagement at Edinburgh Castle known as the "ceremony of the keys." This saw the 96-year-old monarch being symbolically offered the key to the city to mark the start of her week-long residence at Holyrood.

The appearance of the queen on Monday was not announced until the day itself in a new working practice that sees the monarch's diary of engagements no longer published beforehand, owing to her increased health and mobility problems.

On her arrival in Edinburgh the queen made a spritely appearance as she exited the royal train unaided and though using a walking stick, was in high spirits for the ceremony of the keys.

This public appearance by the queen follows concern over her health which arose as a result of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations in early June. Despite the events being planned in her honor, the queen only made public appearances on two of the four days of celebrations, citing "discomfort" incurred on the first day's balcony appearance as a reason for her absence.

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