14:57 GMT25 November 2020
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    55 percent of the population voted 'No' when they were first asked whether they wanted independence for Scotland in September 2014, with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon framing a potential second referendum last year as a "choice between Brexit and a future for Scotland as an independent European nation".

    Prince Andrew had hinted that Queen Elizabeth II was going to weigh in on the Scottish independence vote, according to Lionel Barber, a former editor of the Financial Times.

    In his diaries, The Powerful and the Damned: Private Diaries in Turbulent Times, published this month, and referenced by The Times, Barber claims that the Duke of York had given him “a nod and a wink, wink” and made some “pretty bloody amazing” comments about how the Queen was preparing to wade into the debate on the issue one week before the 2014 referendum.

    A Scottish Saltire flag blows in the wind near the statue of Scottish King Robert the Bruce, at Bannockburn, Scotland, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012
    © AP Photo / CHRIS CLARK
    A Scottish Saltire flag blows in the wind near the statue of Scottish King Robert the Bruce, at Bannockburn, Scotland, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012

    The exchange allegedly took place over lunch, where Barber found himself in the company of Prince Andrew and Ma Kai, the former Chinese vice-premier, at Buckingham Palace on 11 September, four days after a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times.

    With less than two weeks to go until voting day, the poll had YES at 51 per cent and NO at 49 per cent – the first lead for the independence camp registered by any company since regular polling on September 18th’s referendum began.

    Barber’s writes: “There is this scene where I am at Buckingham Palace, invited by the roguish Duke of York to lunch with the Chinese foreign minister, and Andrew suddenly half lets loose that the Queen is going to intervene on the Sunday. That was interesting. They had clearly planned it. It was very artfully done ... Andrew knew about it.”

    Three days after the lunch, the Queen memorably commented on the upcoming vote in the Scottish independence referendum.

    When a member of the public joked outside the church at Crathie near the Queen’s Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire that they were not going to mention the referendum, the royal remarked:

    "Well, I hope people will think very carefully about the future."
    Britain's Queen Elizabeth leaves with her son Prince Andrew, at Crathie Kirk after attending a Sunday morning church service near Balmoral, Scotland, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019
    © AP Photo / Robert Perry
    Britain's Queen Elizabeth leaves with her son Prince Andrew, at Crathie Kirk after attending a Sunday morning church service near Balmoral, Scotland, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019

    Royal officials at the time insisted her comment did not breach the monarch's constitutional impartiality.

    It subsequently became one of the biggest talking points of the campaign, when the “no” side eventually won 55 per cent to 45 per cent.

    ‘Referendum On a Knife Edge’

    There had been speculation that the Queen might have been part of an orchestrated campaign to discourage Scots from voting for independence.

    In 2019, former UK prime minister David Cameron was cited by the BBC as revealing that the memorable Sunday Times poll had added to a “mounting sense of panic” that he might lose the referendum.

    This had reportedly led him to seek help from royal officials to discuss how the Queen could comment on the upcoming vote while not venturing beyond the constitutional boundaries of neutrality.

    It was claimed that if the Queen were to raise an eyebrow “even a quarter of an inch”, it could work towards saving the Union.

    At the time, Buckingham Palace dismissed any speculation that the Queen was looking to influence the outcome of the referendum as “categorically wrong”.

    Recalling that lunch in Prince Andrew’s company, Barber claims the prevalent atmosphere at the palace on the day “was one of concern that the referendum was on a knife edge”. According to the former editor of the Financial Times, the Queen’s intervention “may have tipped the balance” with the final result.

    In response to the report, Buckingham Palace said:

    “We never comment on people’s recollections of what were private conversations.”

    The issue of a second referendum has been floated by the government in Holyrood, however it is yet to be approved, as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly opposed the idea.

    Last year, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon framed a potential second referendum as a "choice between Brexit and a future for Scotland as an independent European nation".

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    Boris Johnson, Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth II, Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish independence, Scotland
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