Prince Charles puts on brave face in Scotland after Queen’s climate law exemption emerges

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Prince Charles wore a kilt in Rothesay tartan as he met with volunteer beach cleaners at Scrabster Beach in Caithness. The Prince of Wales, known as Duke of Rothesay north of the border, was shown some of the most curious objects found by beach cleaners during their regular trips to ensure the shoreline is kept clean. Speaking with Dorcas and Allan Sinclair, founders of the Caithness Beach Clean Group, Prince Charles discovered the cleaners had found even a coaxial cable on one of the local beaches.

Prince Charles, speaking with the media covering the visit, joked: “You don’t need any coaxial cables, do you?”

Mr and Ms Sinclair founded the group in 2019 and have since carried out 3,500 beach cleans.

Speaking ahead of the royal visit, Mr Sinclair said: “We find horrible things like syringes, needles and even a gas mask.

“Recently we found a giant buoy, one of the cleaners got a tiny leather child’s shoe that is absolutely ancient.

“There’s also lots of pants, would you believe?

“So many people find men’s pants – only men’s, never women’s – and we talk about having a ‘pantometer’ because there’s a running joke about who finds the most pants.” 

He added the group has so far picked up more than 31 tonnes of plastic during their beach sweeps.

Ms Sinclair noted the Prince of Wales had dedicated decades of his life to raise awareness on plastic pollution, climate change and sustainability.

She said: “He’s such an environmentalist himself, we’re really, really pleased he’s recognising what we’re doing here.”

Prince Charles publicly raised concerns over plastic waste and air pollution in a landmark speech delivered in 1970.

At the time, the Prince of Wales said last year as he commemorated the 50th anniversary of his first landmark speech on the environment, he had been considered “rather dotty” for his remarks.

Asked what she would speak to the prince about, Ms Sinclair added: “I’d like to tackle him about fishing because 99 percent of what we pick up is fishing related – nets, reels et cetera – in case he can use his influence.” 

This was the first of a series of visits the Prince of Wales will carry out in Thurso.

After meeting the Sinclairs, Charles visited DS McGregor & Partners veterinary surgery.

This trip to Scotland comes one day after it emerged a draft law in the Scottish Parliament was amended to exempt the Queen’s private land from certain measures taken to cut carbon emissions after her lawyers had raised “concerns”.

This was found in documents uncovered by Lily Humphreys, a researcher for the Scottish Liberal Democrats using freedom of information laws, and first reported by the Guardian. 

This dispensation was obtained from the Scottish Government earlier this year through the use of Queen’s Consent – a Parliamentary mechanism required to be able to debate a bill affecting the prerogatives or the interests of the sovereign.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s principal private secretary wrote to the Queen’s most senior aide Sir Edward Young on January 12 to ask for her consent to the Heat Networks Bill.

In early February, officials working for Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse noted he had agreed to amend the bill, which had been introduced at Holyrood the previous year.

The officials also said: “Minister agreed to proposed amendment that would addressed [sic] concerns from Queen’s solicitors”.

On February 17, a courtier told the Scottish Government the Queen had given her consent to allow the bill to pass and five days later Mr Wheelhouse put forward an amendment that applied only to land privately owned by the sovereign, without disclosing the Queen’s lawyers had lobbied for the change.

Through this exemption, the Queen is not required to sell parts of her private land to facilitate the construction of underground pipelines to heat buildings using renewable energy rather than boilers powered by fossil fuels. 

Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie said such lobbying should have been declared at Holyrood.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “The Royal Household can be consulted on bills in order to ensure the technical accuracy and consistency of the application of the bill to the Crown, a complex legal principle governed by statute and common law.

“This process does not change the nature of any such bill.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “Scottish Government policy is that the Crown should be subject to regulatory requirements on the same basis as everyone else, unless there is a legitimate reason for an exemption or variation. 

“However, Crown consent is required by law if a bill impacts the private property or interests of the sovereign – and that is what happened in this case.

“In this instance, the Scottish Government considered it appropriate to limit the exercise of compulsory purchase powers in relation to the Queen’s private estates.

“The minister explained in detail to Parliament the reasons why it was appropriate to amend the bill in this way – with specific reference to the Queen’s private estates – and Parliament agreed.”

Mr Wheelhouse, who lost his seat at the May Scottish election, said: “I led several bills in my time and these sort of exemptions for the Queen’s interests are sometimes required as a necessary step.”  

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