Yesterday’s Scottish Edition of the Mail on Sunday carried a front page splash claiming that Nicola Sturgeon was refusing to contribute to the costs of running the Royal Family. An editorial then provided further condemnation of the First Minister’s “plan to stop funding the Royal Family’s Sovereign Grant”. The piece was written by Hamish MacDonell, a journalist whose standards of journalism I questioned in March 2013 over another piece written for the Daily Mail.

I described Sunday’s story on twitter as  “a dung heap of unadulterated, fabricated crap”.

Today, Macdonell recycles the same rubbish in an article on the Spectator’s Coffee House blog claiming that Nicola Sturgeon is “picking a fight with the Queen”. Every paragraph of this article is strewn with errors, smears and downright untruths.

Historically the costs of the Royal Family was met from the Civil List – a sum of money voted by Parliament. In 2011, this arrangement was replaced by the Sovereign Grant under the terms of the Sovereign Grant Act 2011 (see previous blogs here and here in which I criticise this act and predict the problems it will cause). The Act provides that an annual grant be made to the Queen from the Treasury [s.1(1)] with funds provided by Parliament [s.1(6)]. Section 6 provides that the annual amount be calculated with reference to the annual net surplus of the Crown Estate beginning with a sum equivalent to 15%. The latest report from the Royal Trustees on the Sovereign Grant was published last week.

The Smith Commission recommended that responsibility for the Crown Estate be devolved and that the Crown Estate Commissioners no longer have any jurisdiction in Scotland. It also noted (para. 35) that the “responsibility for financing the Sovereign grant will need to reflect this revised settlement for the Crown Estate.”

Here are the facts that any competent journalist who is not engaged in a smear campaign should be able to establish.

1. The Crown Estate revenues do not finance the Royal Household. They merely provide a benchmark against which the Sovereign grant is calculated. The grant is paid out of funds voted by Parliament. (1)

2. The financing of the Royal Household is a reserved matter and neither Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Government or the Scottish Parliament have any responsibility whatsoever for it. There are no proposals in the Smith Commission or anywhere else to change this.

3. The Smith Commission notes the issue in relation to the Sovereign Grant because once the Crown Estate is devolved, the revenues of the Crown Estate that are remitted to HM Treasury will suffer a one-off reduction by the amount of the revenues generated from Scotland. Such an adjustment will presumably be made by altering the 15% figure to a slightly higher figure and the Sovereign Grant will continue to be paid by the Treasury from funds voted by the UK Parliament as it is now.

None of this has got anything to do with the Scottish Government. There is no snub and no refusal to do anything for the simple reason that the financing of the Royal Household is and continues to be a reserved matter.

I understand the Daily Mail publishing this rubbish – very little of that it reports bears much relation to reality.

I am more disappointed that the Spectator magazine allowed such a dung heap of unadulterated, fabricated crap be published in what is a high quality current affairs magazine.


(1)  George Osborne himself noted in Parliament that the Crown Estate revenues are merely “not a bad proxy for how the economy and the economy are doing”. See blog in which I argue that one might as well link the Sovereign Grant to the profits of the stilton cheese industry.





  1. Yes, they are not a bad proxy for how the economy is doing, because the crown estate is property speculation pure and simple, just like the bulk of the uk “economy”.

    • Not really true that ” the crown estate is property speculation pure and simple”.

      It is property speculation + rent-seeking … which is also a closer match to the shape of theUK economy.

  2. Alistair Mathers

    Andy –
    Like you, I’m appalled but not surprised at this rubbish.
    Is there any way I can post a link to your blog on Facebook?

    Keep up the good work!

    • Very easily Alistair. Just copy the address of the blog (or the individual post) into the ‘Update Status’ box on Facebook and the rest will happen by magic.

    • There must be Alistair. I came from the posting of Women for Scottish Independence Facebook page. Maybe copy the link at the top of the blog and post it onto you own page.

  3. I strongly believe that the royal family should get money from Scotland. If they come up here and work for the Co-op or Scotrail etc, they can keep whatever they earn.

    • But as they’ve been out of work so long, they’ll be there on a Workfare placement, so they won’t actually make any money once travel costs are taken into account.

    • Noel , You sir are a true scholar and a Gentleman And I salute you!!!!!!

  4. I sense you are sitting on the fence here Andy!

  5. Don’t hold back so much, give them both barrels, as your estate owning toff pals would say. Tell them what you really think. It is not possible to to be overly critical in respect of this foul organ.

  6. Henry Gough-Cooper

    Thanks for clearing that up! I felt sure that it was a DHUFC, but couldn’t find corroboration anywhere, or any ‘signalling’ by SNP ministers. I guess things will only get uglier as the ‘hateful’ Salmond gets nearer to his Westminster apotheosis.

  7. good to see this garbage exposed. The establishment must be in full panic now. ‘Land reform’….. the foundations of the union cracked beyond repair. Journalists trying to find comfort in sookin up to the monarch with daft stories. Why are they trying to reject us? we are so much stronger together!

  8. Inevitable that the new FM would be subject to an early smear. That it is so crude, and badly done, (as you rightly expose) speaks of desperation. I don’t read the Mail (or the Sunday Mail. ‘Record) but I do like (usually) the quality of writing in the Spectator. That its Editor should either commission this piece, or accept it for publication, diminishes it in my eyes. I should also say that The Poor Had No Lawyers was by far the best book I read this year. Keep up this important work. I sense that the time is close when much of what you have researched, written and revealed will effect change for the better in this country.

  9. Hebridean Farmer

    Thank you for alerting us to this Andy .
    Ignorance of his subject, willingness to write anything for a story and an ability to smear sums up the worth of this 3rd rate journalist.
    He was found out before, but still polishes his brass neck to continue.
    Our First Minister is sending shock waves down the spines of the landed elite and this so called journalist has had a feeble bash at stopping her…..he has done nothing more than embarrass and discredit himself.
    Get a grip Hamish and stick to a subject you know a wee bit about.

  10. Bringing true social justice and equal rights is like a huge tanker turning; it will take time. The Scottish Government appreciate that the anachronism of having a type of serfdom that has been handed down since the dark ages will take time to change. In the 21st Century, we still see individuals kow-towing to their “betters” through the right of birth. England will keep this system for a very long time; we can do something about it sooner.

  11. Hi, I really enjoy reading what you have to say and would like to share it. I’m rarely on Twitter and can’t see a way to share to fb, any chance you could change that? I would appreciate it. Sorry if the problem is just my lack of IT skills which I realise is possible.

  12. Oops, just noticed earlier comment.

  13. As others have already said we can expect to see a lot more of this tosh now the establishment are going into panic mode; and lets face it the only way many rags can sell copy is exaggerate and lie.

  14. I have not read all of this report however I was delighted when I read that Nicola would not be contributing to the queens massive wealth. Please don’t promote paying that family any more money, they certainly do not need it – but I have no doubt they would take it, and anything else they can get their hands on. If Scotland stops paying for them or even withholds their ‘funding’ until we become independent I for one will be ver very happy. I PROMOTE A FREE INDEPENDENT SCOTTISH REPUBLIC.

  15. Well done – could I ask have you made a formal compaint to the Press Complaints . . I know most of us have little faith in them BUT – It would be wonderful if you could make the time to do it
    1 Accuracy
    i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

    ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published. In cases involving the Commission, prominence should be agreed with the PCC in advance.

    iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

    2 Opportunity to reply

    A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for.

  16. I remember when Hamish MacD worked for the Scotsman. His output was always more inflammatory sub pontine trolling than professional journalism. Always throwing his toys out the pram when called out for his lack of integrity. Truly odious.

    I often wonder which journalistic greats hacks like Hambo hoped to emulate when choosing the profession, and why it all went so bitterly wrong for them.

  17. You read the Daily Mail, and questioned the integrity of their journalist? Wow that some edgy shizz right there!

    Did you know that the sun rises in the east?

  18. <== I think this link explains the royal wealth/worth well enough. I fear there shall be at least two more years of smear and fear mongering by the media. The South are generally ignorant of the injustices Scotland has suffered and are programmed by the lying of equally ignorant journalists and presenters. There is far more racism in England (been witness to it myself in 2006). And NOT that everyone supports that view. However, there is a large enough belief down South that the Scots should be put back in their place and that is due mainly to all the negative propaganda. So sad that both sides are so sadly misled and influenced. Must say our Greens and our SNPeers are doing a grand job!! And ofcourse, Andy!

    • I spent my working life in England returning to Scotland on retirement (now semi retirement as I’m in the process of starting a business.)

      Having witnessed at first hand how Scottish affairs are presented to the English public I can only agree with Des; the unfortunate part is that this propaganda is believed even by otherwise intelligent people and no amount of correcting will convince them they are being misinformed.

      The present rise in membership of the pro-independence parties while being admitted is presented as a temporary phenomena and that come the general election all will return to normal. Given Ed Balls statement on radio 4 this morning that the Labour economic policy will be to cut and cut again like the Tories it’s not the normal I want and the sooner we do get real autonomy the better.

  19. Lets not forget the many crown estate tenants evicted this year to provide those profits for the crown.

  20. How many tenants have been evicted from the CE this year, hector? Can you name any examples?

  21. If you google “stop crown estate evictions ” on i petitions you will find it.
    if i remember correctly around 200 house tenants were being evicted in rural england so the houses could be sold.
    The tenants had no chance of finding comparable accomodation locally.

  22. Oh, I thought you were talking about farm tenants on Glenlivet Estate.

  23. Ever so slightly ot here, but as it covers estates, both royal and otherwise, and as it concerns subject matter discussed in a recent thread – here is a quality book readers may wish to check out ;