NO doubt you read our front-page story yesterday on falling living standards and squeezed incomes.

You might have spent time during the week digesting the implications of George Osborne's latest cuts, all £11.5bn of them. But be reassured: the Chancellor isn't flint-hearted to all those he might otherwise call welfare-dependent.

There's one family, Scottish by some accounts, who are sheltered from Mr Osborne's storms. In fact, he has guaranteed that their household income can never fall. There will be no 1% pay ceiling for these public sector workers, nor will their automatic annual rises be abolished. For some, a very few, living off the state will carry no stigma as far as the Chancellor is concerned.

Call me churlish, but I wasn't the one who said we were all in it together. Nor did I come up with the bright idea of shielding the Royal Family from privation by guaranteeing them 15% of the Crown Estate's profits in exchange for the old civil list.

If that means there is an uncomfortable symbolism in the fact that £1m is spent doing up a flat for one young couple while their peers struggle to secure any sort of housing, the Chancellor can take the blame. His reform of the Royal finances, introduced last year, is going to come back to haunt the apostle of austerity as the beneficiaries grow ever richer. A Scottish government, devolved or independent, is also liable to find the experience disconcerting.

The royals themselves are not exactly tactful, but there's nothing new in that, or in their ability to spin the numbers. This might not have been the best moment to spend a million refurbishing a Kensington Palace apartment for William and Kate, as we are supposed to call them, but they have a lot of goodwill to fall back on. The Queen herself can depend on courtiers to talk about a monarch scrimping and saving just as the money begins to roll in. That's not really the point.

The Crown Estate, with vast expanses of farmland, huge tracts of London property, half of Scotland's coast, most of its seabed and much else besides across the UK, is valued at £8.1bn. In 2012/13 it returned a surplus of £252.6m. The sovereign grant is calculated from profits two years in arrears. This means that in a couple of years the monarch can expect to receive £37.9m.

Reports this week that the Queen "only" received £900,000 extra in 2012/13, and had to manage with just a 2.6% increase, do not quite tell the story, in other words. Her spending – "expenses" as the Palace would term the outlay – went up from £32.4m to £33.3m this time around. But with the Crown Estate outperforming even the London property market while involving itself heavily in offshore wind farms, the earning potential of that 15% "grant" is vast.

There is deviousness as well as money involved. Certain royals, the Prince of Wales in particular, have a bad habit of behaving as though the Crown Estate is somehow the property of the person who wears the crown. That hasn't been true since 1760, when a previous royal family was bailed out in exchange for the civil list. The Queen's true property is her private property. The rest – the bigger palaces, the art, the seabed – is ours.

In other words, the House of Windsor is in no sense entitled to any part of public – not Government – assets. Mr Osborne's deal, plus the frequent use of the magical word crown, are designed to persuade us otherwise. For those few who stand to gain, it's all working out very nicely.

What's the revenue potential of offshore wind energy? No one knows for sure, obviously enough, but judging by the number of schemes established or proposed, it is not small, nor liable to diminish in the foreseeable future. The Crown Estate, which charges for the right to run cables across the seabed and takes a cut of generating profits, is heavily involved in this sector. Its publicity material will tell you, in fact, that it is working hard to help the Scottish Government to achieve its renewables targets. There is a hint that we should be grateful.

But think of it this way. The next time you open a hideous electricity bill, just remember that in your own small way you are doing your bit to keep the lights on at Buck House. A fraction of a fraction of the profits earned when you pay up will go direct to the Windsors. Those profits will increase greatly in the years ahead.

This should count as curious. Until Mr Osborne decided to liberate the royals from the shackles of the civil list, all Crown Estate revenues went direct to the Treasury. When the SNP pressed to have the estate's Scottish holdings devolved, rejection was instantaneous. Alex Salmond grows lyrical when he talks about the potential for renewables. He has not a bad word to say, either, about his "Queen of Scots". But might not there be a wee contradiction lurking?

Let's say the First Minister gets his dearest wish and wins an independence referendum. Let's say he succeeds in turning Scotland into the "wind power capital" – or whatever – "of Europe". Let's say he also sticks to his guns and retains the monarchy. Do we continue to give them their 15% cut from the profits earned from our seabed? It doesn't sound like a working definition of the people's Scotland.

As of March, 2012, the Crown Estate valued its Scottish holdings at £220m. Set beside ownership of London's Regent Street, Windsor Great Park, all the coastal waters to the south, gold and silver mining rights and much more besides, the part of the business on this size of the Border is modest enough, but not to be sneezed at. Unless the proponents of wind energy such as the First Minister are dead wrong, however, Scotland's share of the assets will grow vastly bigger in the years to come. As things stand, the monarch's earnings will also grow by leaps and bounds.

No-one, English or Scottish, should be happy about the deal offered up by Mr Osborne. The Windsors probably could not believe their luck. Given the number of ordinary families who these days cannot comprehend the scale of their misfortunes, the symbolism alone is nauseating. But there is, just for once, a genuine principle at stake.

Even if you will hear not a word against the Royal Family, the Crown Estate arrangement cannot be right. If you believe that the Windsors make an invaluable contribution to Scottish and British life then a case could be made for funding their duties. Granting 15% of the profits of an expanding multi-billion pound industry is a formula for the enrichment of a handful of people. Worse, it encourages them to perpetuate the fiction that the wealth is theirs by right.

It simply isn't true. If the claim had merit, the royals would have a right to the entire Crown Estate. That nonsense ended, once and for all, in 1760. Yet in the 21st century, in a country that cares less with each passing year about vast gulfs in wealth, royalty is once again taxing the lieges. And getting away with it.