Nicola Sturgeon’s officials demanded Queen Elizabeth II and Brexit be removed from Platinum Jubilee book

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Nicola Sturgeon - Jane Barlow / PA
Nicola Sturgeon - Jane Barlow / PA

Nicola Sturgeon’s government refused to endorse a book for primary children commemorating the Platinum Jubilee despite demanding that mentions of Queen Elizabeth II, Brexit and England’s 1966 World Cup victory be removed.

Official emails showed the Scottish government asked for 52 changes to be made to the draft text of the book, which was meant as a gift for children across the UK, only to disassociate itself from the project.

Ms Sturgeon’s officials made clear to the UK Government and publisher DK Books that “the Scottish government is not content to be acknowledged at all in the development or production of this book”.

All primary children in England from year six to reception automatically received a copy of the book, titled Queen Elizabeth: A Platinum Jubilee Celebration, but Scottish schools were forced to opt in online if they wanted some for their pupils.

But the emails showed the Scottish government’s curriculum and qualifications division objected to the book using the title Queen Elizabeth II as “she is not the second Queen Elizabeth here”.

This was a reference to the Union of the Crowns of England and Scotland occurring after the death of Elizabeth I in 1603.

Queen Elizabeth: A Platinum Jubilee Celebration
Queen Elizabeth: A Platinum Jubilee Celebration

They also protested the 2002 death of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother being described as a “tragedy”, saying this “reads a little tabloid when describing the death of (a) very old lady”.

Brexit should be removed from a timeline of the most significant events that have occurred during the Queen's reign because it is “highly divisive”, they said

They also argued against the inclusion of England’s 1966 football World Cup victory, saying it was “an event that doesn’t seem to merit this level of exposure - and it’s not that relevant in the non-England parts of the UK”.

In addition, Ms Sturgeon’s civil servants protested against the book mentioning the Queen’s intervention days before the 2014 independence referendum in which she urged Scots to “think very carefully about the future”.

David Cameron, the then prime minister, later disclosed he asked the monarch’s private secretary for her to make a subtle statement to help the Unionist side.

Among the litany of other suggestions SNP government officials made was removing a London tour featuring Buckingham Palace “because it is too anglo-centric”.

‘Ridiculous and petty’

The final version of the book included some of their amendments, including stating that the monarch was referred to as Her Majesty The Queen rather than Elizabeth II in Scotland.

Her independence referendum intervention was also omitted and “tragedy” removed from the reference to the Queen Mother’s death, which instead noted that she died “peacefully, aged 101”.

But the book included a box explaining Brexit and describing how British passports “went back to being navy blue again” after previously being “burgundy to match the others in the EU”.

The sightseeing tour of London and England’s World Cup victory were also retained, with the text noting that “The Queen handed the trophy to the captain Sir Bobby Moore”.

Donald Cameron, the Scottish Tories’ Shadow Constitution Secretary, said: “The sheer number of suggested changes seems excessive - particularly in a book that, ultimately, the SNP government opted out of providing automatically to Scottish school kids.

“The request for mention of England’s 1966 World Cup win to be removed appears ridiculous and petty. For the sake of the Queen, you’d think the nationalists could take a day off from their bitter and obsessive agenda.”

‘Once-in-a-lifetime commemoration’

The book was designed as a “once-in-a-lifetime commemoration” and written in collaboration with royal experts and historians.

Its protagonist is a young girl called Isabella who, thanks to her great-grandmother’s “treasure box” of souvenirs, learns all about the Queen’s 70 years on the throne.

Funded by the UK Government to the tune of £12 million, the book was rolled out to schools in England from mid-May.

But the Department for Education said that schools in Scotland and Wales had to opt in to receive copies of the books at “the request of the Scottish and Welsh governments”. Those that did so will receive copies in late September.

A Scottish government spokesman said: “The book is a UK Government project and they are responsible for its content, development and distribution.

“Scottish government officials were given sight of drafts and provided feedback to the Department for Education upon request.”

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