How we get bent out of shape protecting comfortable old lies, like the universal popularity of monarchy and its mongrel offspring ¬ the landed aristocracy. Both are symbols of a bygone age and yet were vigorously paraded this weekend, with relatively little by way of public objection.

That doesn’t mean counter-arguments don’t exist and aren’t voiced quietly and privately across Scotland. It’s just that most folk keep competing realities to themselves. We were brought up that way.

Thus, royalty is popular, every news outlet across the world proclaims ¬ and the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations have brought “the nation” together in the terrible wake of Covid.

It’s a comforting conceit, it just isn’t universally true. Inescapable wall-to-wall coverage has certainly forced Britain’s monarchy back into the public eye, but not necessarily to the royal family’s advantage. Red, white and blue bunting is conspicuous by its general absence across Scotland while the taming of normally challenging news outfits like Channel Four News (and the unsurprising absence of a special Jubilee episode of The Windsors) confirms that humour, sarcasm and irony must be locked away when the Queen is in focus, and replaced with an unnatural, boring and inauthentic worshipfulness. So delicate is the royal family’s constitution.

That’s not to say there isn’t a grudging respect – or just polite neutrality – towards the Queen whose age, infirmity and recent bereavement reveal her to be a head of state, but also an isolated elderly woman with some highly dysfunctional family members. Each passing celebratory event seems to confirm that no amount of title, wealth, castles, magazine front pages or contrived miles of bunting can halt the relentless progress of time.

Will the monarchy survive King Charles? Even if the question can barely be asked on TV, the Queen’s absence from celebrations have drawn attention and turned the thorny issue of succession into the talk of the steamie during family gatherings this Bank Holiday weekend.

And if we’re down to arguing that the royals can unite the country as a highly subsidised, tourist-attracting, ‘ordinary’ family – including one prince who’s paid his sex-assault accuser £12million – then, the barrel has been well and truly scraped.

How many more tourists would be attracted by the emergence of a brand-new European state? And if that isn’t a good enough reason for backing Scottish independence – and it isn’t – then it’s not a good enough reason to perpetuate the monarchy either.

Still, the argument goes, where’s the harm? Surely, in the great scheme of things, the taxpayer’s royal millions are a drop in the ocean. They can’t interfere in policy and are largely ceremonial – like the vast legion of hingers on. Weak-chinned and occasionally socially useful, almost always the object of some sport (behind their backs) and fundamentally harmless – what’s the problem?

Thus, no-one much cares about the size of the Queen’s estate at Balmoral, the way eco-rules in the Cairngorms National Park seem to stop at her esteemed acres. And absolutely no-one cares about associated relics of aristocracy – like the Duke of Sutherland’s statue above Golspie, erected in the 1830s by a supposedly grateful peasantry.

Yet land reform campaigners and independence supporters gathered beneath the 100-foot monument that tops Ben Bhraggie on Saturday for Manniefest, an alternative, and decidedly unvenerable celebration of The Mannie, as the statue’s generally known.

A local paper forecast disruption by squads of imported trouble-makers – a nervous prediction that completely failed to materialise. The Yes Highlands-organised walk through Golspie and up the hill was accompanied by stewards lest anyone felt tempted to ‘do a Colston’ at the summit. Very unlikely given the tone of the day and unreachable nature of the man on the plinth.

But in another way, the worriers were right. Land reform-supporting speeches, music, poetry and readings by Highlanders did constitute disruption to business as usual – in Golspie and beyond.

There are 37 dukes in Britain – each owns land in Scotland and pays virtually no tax for their fiefdoms, like every other large hereditary landowner.

Primogeniture (inheritance by the first-born male) officially ended before feudalism got the axe in Scotland 20 years ago, but underlying attitudes aren’t so quick to change. Most of the large sporting estates along the Grey Coast (as Dunbeath writer Neil Gunn described the eastern coastlines of Caithness and Sutherland) are still inherited by one child to keep the land intact and change hands privately to prevent local community buyouts.

The Western Isles was just as heavily cleared in The Mannie’s time, but is now majority community-owned and is slowly pegging its way back to vitality. Yet there’s only been one large buyout – Garbh Allt at Helmsdale – amongst the hundreds of thousands of acres that fringe the relatively unpopulated Grey Coast. Rivers are off-limits to all but the landowners’ paying guests and employment is still dominated by elite hunting, shooting and fishing interests.

It's been this way for so long that many inhabitants believe the aristocratic dominance of their daily lives is fine. Or acceptable. But for one big problem. Where are their children? Likely gone sooth for jobs and homes – as my own parents did 60 years ago.

And there’s the rub. So never mind the Clearance crimes committed by the Mannie and his ilk. It’s a determination to reshape the future that prompted Highlanders to gather in public, at last, at the foot of Ben Bhraggie.

And that polite disruption – voicing what’s widely felt about land scarcity, stifled development and doffed caps along this silenced coast – was long overdue.

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