Revealed: Secret No 10 plan to send Prince Edward to live in Edinburgh palace in attempt to quash rising support for SNP and another Scottish independence referendum
- No 10 wanted Edward and his wife to relocate to Scotland to save the Union
- It came amid a surge in the polls for the SNP calling for a referendum
- The couple have lived at Bagshot Park, Surrey, since their 1999 wedding
Royals called Edward don’t always have the best reputation north of the border.
Edward I earned the nickname Hammer of the Scots for his fondness for going to war against them, while his son Edward II was famously thrashed by the forces of Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn.
So would our present Prince Edward really be the man to send to Edinburgh to smooth modern-day tensions between the two countries?
The wheeze was dreamt up last year by Downing Street officials alarmed at the Scottish National Party surging in the polls amid growing calls for a new independence referendum.
They wanted Edward and his wife the Countess of Wessex to relocate to Scotland in an effort to save the Union.
Edward and Sophie are known in Scotland as the Earl and Countess of Forfar, titles bestowed by the Queen two years ago to mark her youngest son’s 55th birthday
It came as aides working for Boris Johnson considered how the Royal Family could help bolster ties between all four nations of the UK. One mooted idea was to make Edward and Sophie the public face of the royals in Scotland.
The couple would have taken up full-time residence at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland, to lead efforts to increase the number of royal engagements there.
The UK Government is increasingly concerned about the threat to the Union as Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP appears to be on course for a landslide in may’s Scottish parliament elections.
The First Minister has said that if the SNP wins a majority she will push forward with a referendum, regardless of whether Westminster gives her the go-ahead. Mr Johnson has repeatedly insisted he will not allow another vote, arguing that the 2014 vote was a once in a generation decision. But 20 consecutive opinion polls have now shown the Yes campaign ahead.
Amid anxiety in No 10, Mr Johnson this week drafted in trusted aide Oliver Lewis to take charge of the fight to save the Union. He was deputy to Lord Frost in the Brexit negotiating team.
The wheeze was dreamt up last year by Downing Street officials alarmed at the Scottish National Party surging in the polls
One challenge facing the Government is finding ways to make the emotional case for the Union, as well as the economic one.
Edward and Sophie are known in Scotland as the Earl and Countess of Forfar, titles bestowed by the Queen two years ago to mark her youngest son’s 55th birthday.
The couple have lived at Bagshot Park, Surrey, since their 1999 wedding. Their two children are Lady Louise, 17, and James Viscount Severn, 13.
Sophie is known to be close to the Queen, with Windsor Castle a 20-minute drive from their home.
The Queen keenly avoids getting involved in political issues. But four days before the 2014 poll, she told a well-wisher she hoped Scots would ‘think very carefully about the future’.
The comments were seen as helpful to opponents of independence at a time when opinion polls pointed to a very tight result. The No side eventually won by 55 per cent to 45 per cent.
It came as aides working for Boris Johnson considered how the Royal Family could help bolster ties between all four nations of the UK
David Cameron said the Queen had ‘purred down the line’ when he phoned her to tell her the result.
Each summer the Queen spends around 12 weeks at her Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire, although she did not last year because of coronavirus. Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall isolated at Birkhall, their nearby Scottish home, during the first lockdown.
A Downing Street source last night said no formal request had been made to the Palace for Edward and Sophie to move to Scotland. Buckingham Palace said it was unaware of the proposal.