QUEEN Elizabeth does not do things on the spur of the moment. Like opera singers she probably knows where she will be and what role she will be playing three years from tomorrow. Her visit to Scotland on Wednesday to mark the tenth anniversary of the Scottish Parliament will have been in her diary in capital letters for at least that period of time. How strange, therefore, that it caught so many MSPs by surprise at the last moment -- some finding they had “unbreakable constituency commitments”, others having to talk about job losses at a refinery in Kilmarnock and another discovering a sudden family bereavement. In all there were forty-eight empty seats in the parliamentary chamber -- the Scottish National Party contributed 21 to that total and Labour 17. Five ministers were among those absent, among them one who had to attend the launch of a waterways path network. It is frequently said that although the Scots are happy with their national parliament and its devolved powers and that the majority of people have no interest in independence from the rest of the United Kingdom; opinion polls appear to bear this out. Why then should one-third of their elected representatives go out of their way to snub -- insult would be the better word -- their Monarch when she takes the trouble to make a point of recognising the existence and success of the Scottish parliament?


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