Today, an amendment to the Act of Settlement is being rushed through the House of Commons by means usually reserved for emergency terrorism legislation. The imminent royal baby appears to represent a threat to the Coalition’s equality agenda every bit as serious as that posed by al-Qaeda to the safety and security of the free world. There will be minimal debate and negligible scrutiny; a Commons guillotine and wave at a committee.
What Cameron and Clegg fail to realise (if, indeed they understand anything of the Constitution at all), is that those who campaign to end the ban on a Roman Catholic monarchy by focusing on the Act of Settlement are on a wild goose chase. That Act was passed by the old English parliament, which ceased to exist in 1707. The Act was also arguably incompetent, since the English parliament could not unilaterally decide on the British Regal Union of 1603-1707. The Scottish parliament recognised this fact, and deliberately countered the Act of Settlement with a Scottish settlement Act – the Act of Security of 1704.
The Act of Settlement 1701 was superseded by the Treaty of Union 1707, which, in Article 2, also prohibits Roman Catholics ‘and persons marrying Papists’ from ascending the Throne of the United Kingdom. The Treaty of Union 1707 is the founding charter of the United Kingdom. Tamper with this, and the Union itself is imperilled.
It has been observed that Scottish unionist politicians do not want this truth out. They fear making Scots aware that the United Kingdom is the creature of a treaty between two equal parliaments: a living, legal document, capable of amendment and adjustment to contemporary needs.
These are the unspoken ”˜constitutional ripples’ so feared by Donald Dewar. This is why successive prime ministers of the United Kingdom and unionist Scottish secretaries of state had no intention of ending the ban on the Monarch either being a Roman Catholic or married to one, and why they were quite happy to let historically-ignorant and politically-ill-informed people continue harping on about the Act of Settlement 1701.
Until Cameron and Clegg came to power..
See also: BBC: Royal succession: MPs debating changes, Adrian Hilton: The Coalition rides roughshod over the Constitution, Telegraph: An unseemly rush to alter the succession, and Spectator: The Succession to the Crown Bill is a constitutional can of worms