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Community / Time to abolish the monarchy, an Althing majority finds

Over 30 people gathered at Lerwick Town Hall on Saturday evening to hear a passionate debate about whether or not to abolish the monarchy.

Chaired by Vic Thomas, the Althing met in the Lerwick Town Hall on Saturday yo discuss the future of the monarchy. Photo: Sarah Cooper

AFTER just two debates this year the Althing wrapped up their 2022 season with a spirited debate about the monarchy.

Frankie Valente and Brian Nugent spoke in favour of abolishment, while Robina Barton and Gordon Dargie were against the motion.

The debate was certainly an amusing one, with members of the audience chuckling at both Nugent and Dargie’s quips.

Valente kicked off by drawing attention to the amount of money the royal family receive (£102 million in 2021) and how this could be better spent in education, healthcare or public safety.

She also highlighted how the king and queen cannot be charged with any criminal act and was in favour of a more equal position like a presidency.

Barton followed up with a passionate speech about how the relationship between the common folk of the UK and the royal family has developed over the last 1,000 years. She said: “People do have the power, because the parliament has the power.”

She also questioned whether another elected head of state would have the same “draw” as our current monarchy system. Barton also added that the royal family also pay taxes and produce around £380 million each year while coming in at a cost of only £1.29 to each taxpayer per year.

The Althing has previously debated the Royal Family twice before. Once in 1957, with a motion of The British monarchy has outlived its usefulness, and again in 2018 when the motion up for debate was The royal family is a waste of money. Both motions were defeated.

Nugent picked up for the side in favour of abolishing, immediately calling the idea of 1,000 years of history ‘pious guff’, saying: “Let’s not try to make the history of the monarchy noble when it isn’t.”

He drew attention to a report in the Guardian newspaper which showed the monarchy can get a first view of political drafts, and has allegedly interfered with 1,000 draft laws over the years.

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Dargie finalised the opposing side by drawing similarities to Brexit. He said: “This motion is like Brexit all over again, and what did we learn from Brexit? False promises. We can’t frame the monarchy for every bad decision that we make.”

Highlighting the current state of the NHS in the UK, Dargie drew comparisons to Scandinavian countries like Norway, Sweden and Denmark, who all have monarchies and functioning healthcare systems.

Instead, he placed the blame on the current government, stating: “Our NHS is in crisis, but that’s what you get when you vote Tory.”

At the beginning of the night a vote was taken with 13 people for abolishment, six against, and 12 undecided. But Nugent and Valente’s impassioned statements brought the majority round to their side by the end, with a final tally of 22 people in favour, and only nine against with three still undecided.

The Althing will host several more debates in 2023, beginning in January. Subjects have yet to be decided.

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