I was asked an interesting question yesterday. The question went thusly:

“Do you think The Scouting Associations relationship with the Monarchy is necessarily a positive thing?”

I think our position up here on the Mersey, far away from London and ‘The Home Counties’ might just give us a unique perspective on this question. A question which really ought to be taken seriously. Because the Royal Family is not all things to all people. It does not mean the same thing to all people. To some of the fine fellows who may consider themselves very connected and acquainted with The Scouting Association and what it ‘means’ this may seem like an extra ordinary question. One that should be immediately dismissed. “Of course our relations with the Monarchy are a positive thing, they are the most positive thing. They bring glory on us all! Glory glory hallelujah!” Well, ok, maybe. But really?

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Right, now this was pointless sensationalism by The Sun and it has worked. But all this story reminds us of is the reality of who the monarchy are: they are a small group of incredibly privileged individuals who share in a culture of their divine right to this privilege, They are the most upper class of the upper class. The upper class are very much a minority in many parts of the country, the type of culture and status they represent is alien to the the children and families The Scouting Association is trying to reach. Now that we are trying to build ourselves as an organisation that reaches out to disadvantaged communities who suffer at the hands of structural inequality, is it really appropriate that our President, Prince Edward of Kent, is also Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England and First Grand Principal of the Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of England i.e one of the heads of Freemasonry in the United Kingdom? I don’t think that Freemasons really represent an equality spreading force in our society. They are very much part of the superstructure that maintains the class system as we know it.

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Prince Edward of Kent

You know what most people see when they see this man? They see a toff. They see privilege. They can hear his voice as it guffaws and patronises. Our 2018 pledge claims our goal is to “embrace and contribute to social change”. Is this pledge real? Do we want to be just another upper/middle class organisation that pays lip service to the idea of a better society whilst being far more intertwined with old power and old wealth? I do not wish to politicise scouting, but I do wish we would recognise that we are already of political importance. Our ‘troops’ have long been seen as a mini military service for the little ones. Are we blind to our position as military and royal propaganda machine for children? Because many families are not and many young people are not. They see the class relevance of how we operate and they stay away. If we are really committed to disadvantaged young people, maybe we need to listen to and think a little more like them rather than listening to and thinking like their exact opposite, privileged old people.

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Often old buildings that have long lost their purpose and their structural integrity are kept supported by the vines and undergrowth that have entwined themselves with the structure.  Long ago, when the bricks and the mortar were strong and the building was unmovable, the vines had clung so that they could grow, so that they could survive and thrive. Now though through remaining so intertwined they actually hold it up. They are responsible for house remaining, long after it is of use or of service, long after it truly supports itself. Now what appears to be a smaller entity supported by the strength of the house is actually using its strength to support the house. If the vines where to learn to grow independently, and de-entangle themselves from the house, it would fall. The Scouting Institution is one of many vines on the old House of Windsor. We once grew on the back of its power but it is us and institutions like us that are supporting it and holding it up. So we must ask ourselves: is that is that how to reach out to the ‘disadvantaged youth’ we are supposed to serve?