In Right of the Crown?

Author: Sara Salyers

In 2022, while ‘the nation(s) mourned’ the death of Queen Elizabeth, officially anyway, Scotland had another reason for mourning. Along with the mortal remains of Elizabeth Windsor, the dazzling but entirely English royal pageant, representing an ancient but entirely English, constitutional monarchy, effectively buried the Crown of Scotland.

“This is your heritage and history!” The spectacle proclaimed. “Behold its glory, its continuity and its power!”

And we did. One monarch, one monarchy and one Crown, the pageant reminded us, whose essential character is universally understood. But the message was a lie. An important lie.

Although we have a single monarch, there are, two UK Crowns, physically and institutionally. (This is why we have a separate Scottish Crown Estate Office.) The reason for this is the irreconcilable characters of the Scottish and English Crowns.

Any kingdom is a territory, as well as a people, ruled by a monarch. But, crucially, a kingdom may also be described as an area of land held by, and depending on the existence of a Crown. A Crown is not only a monarch. It is a constitutional institution whose character will vary from nation to nation and is distinct from the individual who may wears it. It encompasses territorial, judicial, political and economic authority, what we call ‘sovereignty’, the final and absolute authority of any nation as well as ‘ownership’ of the land and its resources.

The Scottish Crown is widely believed to have disappeared at the Treaty of Union, a belief deliberately fostered by the British establishment. It did not – could not. Even more widespread is the belief that the Crown, Scottish or English, hardly matters in the modern world. This could not be more wrong.

The Crown as an institution still determines the source of power and the ultimate control of, well, pretty much everything. The one on display, the only one ever spoken about in the public domain, the one everyone is familiar with and that has been used as the basis for legislation applied in Scotland, as well as the rest of the UK, is the English Crown institution. Let’s repeat that to be very clear: it is the English institution of the Crown. It works in the following way:

“Conventional feudal theory and practice was based (in England and elsewhere) on the premise that a kingdom was first and foremost a feudal entity and, in that sense, the property of its king or queen.” R Callander ‘How Scotland is Owned’ pp. 45 – 46 (Canongate, 1998)

“The origin of the ‘Crown Estate’ is in 1066. After the Norman Conquest all land belonged to the King and despite changes since then, there is still a presumption that land is owned by the Crown unless there is evidence to prove otherwise. Crown land is managed on behalf of the government by the Crown Estate, which must now be managed by a Board who have a duty to maintain and enhance the estate using good management techniques.” (British Geological Survey, Legislation & policy: mineral ownership, Mineral ownership in the UK,

“Crown interest” means an interest belonging to Her Majesty in right of the Crown or belonging to a government department or held in trust for Her Majesty for the purposes of a government department.” Promoting Development in Scotland” Crown Estates Commission 1998

In summary, the English Crown Estate and the English ‘right of the Crown’ derives from the character of the monarchy in 1066. English Crown equals monarch. The kingdom of England, the land and assets held by the English Crown was and remains ‘a feudal entity’, the property of its king or queen. Political and economic sovereignty were transferred to the English Parliament by the English Convention of 1689. Ownership and control of the territory and its assets remain, in principle, the property of the monarch, managed by the English government through its various offices and department. The Scottish Crown is very different.

“In Scotland’s feudal system, this situation was radically tempered by the Crown’s status as representative of the Community of the Realm which vested that ‘ownership’ in the sovereignty of the people. “ (R Callander ‘How Scotland is Owned’ pp. 45 – 46, Canongate, 1998)

“This distinct identity was not affected by the Union of Crowns in 1603 and has continued since the Treaty of Union in 1707, when Scotland ceased to be an independent state but continued to be a sovereign territorial nation” ( The Land of Scotland and the Common Good, Report of the Land Reform Review Group, May 2014, Section 1 – Land of Scotland, Land Reform Review Group Secretariat)

Put simply, the Crown of Scotland represents the people of the nation rather than any individual and monarchs have always and only represented that Crown. Scottish Crown equals Community of the Realm. Kings or queens ruled not by feudal entitlement but by the consent of the people, who could withdraw that consent and, therefore, the power to govern.

Therefore, the common folk and people of the aforesaid kingdom of Scotland, worn out as it is by the stings of many tribulations ….. agreed on the said Lord Robert, the present king. Declaration of the Clergy 1309

Yet if he should give up what he has begun, seeking to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own right and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King. Declaration of Arbroath 1320

Therfor the Estates of the kingdom of Scotland Find and Declaire That King James the Seventh being a profest papist Did assume the Regall power and acted as king without ever takeing the oath required by law and hath by the advyce of Evill and wicked Counsellors Invaded the fundamentall Constitution of the Kingdome and altered it from a legall limited monarchy To ane arbitrary despotick power … wherby he hath forfaulted the right to the Croune and the throne is become vacant. Claim of Right Act 1689

To bestow or remove kingship, to be able to grant or remove the power to govern is sovereignty. Scottish sovereignty is vested in the Crown of Scotland, just as it is vested in the Crown of England. But the – inexpressably significant – difference is that the Crown of Scotland is not his Majesty King Charles III. The Crown of Scotland is the people, ‘the common folk’ as much as the titled or ennobled.

The constitutional character of the Scottish Crown is something no monarch had or has the authority to alter. The Treaty of Union gave Queen Anne no special, new power to change the institution she inherited from Kenneth McAlpin. The Scottish parliament did not suddenly become a copy of the English, its members ‘custodians’ of the sovereignty of the people, (with the power to take it away to Westminster). Neither monarch nor parliament possessed the sovereignty of the Crown which, we are told today, somehow passed to the new, UK Parliament in 1707. But you can’t sell or lease a house you don’t own and they owned neither ‘sovereignty nor the ‘right of the Crown’ in Scotland to negotiate away.

The British state has dealt with the problem by burying it and pretending it doesn’t exist. Almost everything done in the UK ‘in right of the Crown’ conforms to the rights of an English Crown. Notwithstanding the two separate Crown Estate Offices. Notwithstanding the territorial sovereignty of the Scottish nation. Notwithstanding the need for separate arrangements for the administration of Scotland’s territorial assets. The Scottish Crown, and all that it implies for the rights of the people of Scotland, has become a kind of ghost in the constitutional machinery of the UK. But buried or not, the Scottish Crown, the sovereignty of the people over their government and over their territory, remains. Because there is no lawful way to remove it – and no lawful way to make the institution and rights of the Crown uniform across the UK.

This is a glaring example of the gaslighting of Scotland by the British establishment. Behind it lies an incontrovertible and, for that establishment, extremely dangerous fact.

It was dangerous enough to impose English treason law in Scotland in 1708, breaching the Treaty of Union. It was dangerous enough to convince Westminster to phrase the first petroleum extraction act, which applied almost entirely to Scotland’s oil and gas act in purely English terms:

“An Act to vest in the Crown the property in petroleum and natural gas within Great Britain and to make provision with respect to the searching and boring for and getting of petroleum and natural gas, and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid.

1 Vesting of property in petroleum in His Majesty

(1) The property in petroleum existing in its natural condition in strata in Great Britain is hereby vested in His Majesty, and His Majesty shall have the exclusive right of searching and boring for and getting such petroleum” (Petroleum (Production) Act 1934 CHAPTER 36)

Of course, Scottish oil and gas cannot be lawfully vested in ‘His Majesty’ or ‘Her Majesty’ or any government on the majesty’s behalf, whatever Westminster decrees – a precarious constitutional position for a British state that is heavily dependent on Scotland’s assets for revenue. Hence the need for fraud by semantics, such as an Act which vests, “in the Crown the property in petroleum and natural gas within Great Britain” and then explicitly in “His Majesty”, something only constitutionally possible with the English portion of these assets.

But the continuance of the Scottish Crown is not only dangerous because it changes the legal ownership of Scotland’s territorial assets. When the ‘head of state’, (the Crown), is ‘the Community of the Realm’, then the security of the state, the power of the state and the interests of the state can never mean the security, the power and the interests of a ruling elite, of corporations or a privileged class. The security, power and interests of the state are, instead and quite simply, those of the people as a whole. In right of the Scottish Crown reframes everything, from privately owned energy, land (mis)use, environmental protections, and freeports to civil rights and those ‘exceptional measures’, rendition, detention without trial, imprisoning journalists or shutting down and penalising protest, imposed for the ‘security of the (English) state!

In fact, this not only sets Scotland apart from the rest of the UK, it is a major constitutional lever, if we are willing to recognise and use it, to break Westminster control of Scotland and to reform an oppressive political and judicial system right now. Today.

We could start ‘small’. We could start by pointing out that it’s precisely ‘in right of the Crown’, that the people of Scotland are entitled to decide whether the Stone of Destiny, (ours even if it is just a cludgie stane from Scone monastery!), should go to London to legitimise the coronation of Charles III – or not.

Sara Salyers

Sara Salyers

Former television journalist and award-winning researcher working for clients including C4, BBC and party political broadcasts for the SNP. College teacher in Fife and the USA. Published an academic paper on the effects of the colonial approach to teaching English. Responsible for research, communication and publicity for Salvo