INTERESTING tales were told last summer when Scotland's celebrations for the Queen's jubilee seemed less exuberant, let's say, than the festivities south of the Border.

While in England almost 10,000 street closures were agreed, we managed about 100. Why would that have been?

The First Minister, paladin-like, soon stepped in with reassurances. Perhaps, he told the BBC, "there's just a difference in the way people celebrate things in Scotland". He could have added that there are differences in the things we choose to celebrate, but instead offered his certain knowledge that "our deep affection for Elizabeth, Queen of Scots, is nonetheless very powerful and very strong".

The spurious title granted by Alex Salmond was one of the smaller fictions involved, but he is fond of the pre-union anachronism, as though if he uses it often enough it will catch on. The properly arguable claim involved the "very powerful and very strong" affection. After all, the only demonstrable fact last June was that most Scots felt no urge to celebrate.

It doesn't make us a nation of republicans, more's the pity. What you can find, however, from the polls that bother to make a distinction between Scots and others on these islands, is a little more scepticism towards monarchy. Last April, amid of a lot of free publicity for royalty, an ICM poll found that while just 21% of people in the UK thought they would be better off without the Windsors, 26% of Scots took that view.

Similarly, while 51% of those living outside Scotland believed we would be worse off without a monarchy, the figure among Scots was 42%. Across the UK, 41% said that royalty "unifies" Britain, but only 26% of Scottish respondents agreed (a further 44% of Scots said monarchy made no difference in uniting or dividing society).

Granting an honourable republican socialist tradition and some individuals of independent mind, you would have to call it an SNP effect. A great many Nationalists take the logical view that a restored independence for Scotland surely has to involve cutting links with a monarchy that does all the unifying on Britain's behalf. Their leader does not agree. Or rather, he is no longer the republican that once he was.

Conventionally, Salmond is held to believe there is a mass of Scots who will be better convinced by the case for independence if they are "reassured" at every turn. What unionists like to depict as vast, destabilising change, he prefers to present as a small rearrangement of the furniture, whether it's our own ticket to Nato or associate membership of the sterling currency club. I'm not sure a retained "Queen of Scots" is any part of that plan. I think Salmond is a sincere monarchist.

As he would no doubt point out, it makes him part of a long (if bizarre) Nationalist tradition. Some of them have been squaring this circle for generations. However, it is not clear if the old gush and fudge, genealogical fictions and mythologising of Scottish opinion will always hold reality at bay. Unionists, some in the SNP – even the Queen herself – might not wear it forever.

So HM reads through her Westminster government's prepared statement, as convention demands. So a single sentence is slipped in: "My Government will continue to make the case for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom." So a sensible chap such as Peter Wishart MP feels moved to protest on Nationalism's behalf that this is "politicising the monarchy unnecessarily". Wishart is saddened, it seems, that the Tories and LibDems would get up to such tricks.

But what did he expect them to do? On this subject, their position is perfectly clear. And why would Wishart conclude, for he did, that the Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, somewhat protective of her role, only spoke the line because she was given no choice in the matter? I'd like to see evidence that she was anything other than content with every word.

There is no doubt that down the years HM has found herself saying things in the Queen's Speech liable to give one a dry kind of boak. It would beggar belief to suggest that this was one of those occasions. The entire purpose of last year's jubilee was to stick a little royal glue into the creaking joints of the British state. HM is, unless anyone has forgotten, the head of that state. We are told, often enough, that she takes the job very seriously.

There is a larger, British question about the way governments employ the monarch, but that can only have a British solution for which, it appears, there is zero enthusiasm. The presence of Prince Charles at Westminster suggests, in fact, that the old constitutional game is to continue. His mother won't abdicate, but merely fade a little more year by year while he takes over and badgers ministers with his green ink epistles.

As I understand the SNP, we are engaged in a constitutional struggle. The monarch is at the heart of that British constitution. The fiction of the crown-in-parliament depends on practical realities, one of which is the role of the monarch. The idea that Scotland can have a time-share monarchy while ignoring what the royal person is, what she believes and what she "advises", is self-deluding. Becoming just another loyal wee Commonwealth country is not an option. Our position as it relates to the British state is unique.

The Queen would no doubt like to retain her role and status in Scotland should – as she no doubt sees it – the worst come to the worst. But her preference in the contest hardly has to be guessed. The views of Her Majesty's Government – there's a clue in two of those words – is also well known. The idea that HM & Son are no better than pawns is naive. If they know anything, they know about holding what they have.

The kindest view says that Salmond keeps his real opinions to himself and seeks simply to avoid the distraction of a squabble over the monarchy. Ignore all that, many of his supporters say, until independence is won, then we can sort things out. Officially, the SNP position is that the people of Scotland will decide the royalty issue for themselves, one fine day. But each time Salmond talks about his "Queen of Scots" it all becomes a little less credible.

Still, grant the truth: there is no evidence that most of us want the monarchy abolished within our borders. I could as well point out, however, that there is no evidence for a majority in favour of independence. Why is one argument still serious and plausible while the other is doused in a fog of whimsy? It makes the case incoherent and stores up trouble for the future.

Besides, if the SNP truly want a modern, democratic, progressive and just country, where does the idea of an inherited monarchy fit in? If someone told me tomorrow that I was the overlooked but rightful king of the country and had to be crowned by Saturday week, I would still feel obliged to say it was a bad plan. Unless they were talking Windsor money, of course.