Few places are as important in Scottish history as Scone, where no less than 42 of the country’s kings were crowned. But like the rest of Scotland, this quiet corner of rural Perthshire is split down the middle on independence vote.
Before the rampaging English king Edward II — the ‘Hammer of the Scots’ — stole their Stone of Destiny in 1296, all Scottish kings were once crowned in Scone on the block of red sandstone.
Edward stuck the stone underneath his throne to symbolise the submission of the Scots, though he never quite managed to keep them at heel thanks to a rebel called William Wallace, who got the Hollywood makeover in Mel Gibson’s film Braveheart.
Ever since, English kings and queens have planted their royal posteriors on a throne containing the stone in London’s Westminster Abbey. It was last used during the coronation of the current queen Elizabeth II in 1952, before being given back to the Scots in 1996.
The lords of Scone these days are the Murray family, an aristocratic clan whose seat, Scone Palace, was built in the 16th century. William Murray, Master of Stormont and grandson of the present laird, the Eighth Earl of Mansfield, guides tourists around the site that has become a separatist shrine. But he is ambivalent about the prospect of independence. On the one hand he believes that “if Scotland becomes independent Scone will return to prominence”, arguing that “no other place means as much to the Scottish nation”. He, however, will be voting “No”. But a few minutes down the road in Perth, Alistair Scott-Tyrai — who has a Scottish father and an English mother — was undecided for a long time before coming down for independence. His mother Christina Tyrai interrupted: “We have been united for 300 years, and it was a Scot James I (of England) who united the country. Why let Alex Salmond divide us?” she said. “The family is at war,” joked Alistair.