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Debate to be had about future of monarchy: Sturgeon

Jane Barlow/PA Wire

By Lucinda Cameron, PA Scotland

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said there is a debate to be had over the future of the monarchy in the wake of the controversy over the Duke of York.

Andrew stepped down from public duties after mounting pressure following his BBC Newsnight interview about his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

After the programme aired, the duke faced criticism for showing a lack of empathy towards the victims of his late friend, who took his own life in prison earlier this year while awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

In an interview on ITV News At Ten on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon said a debate about the monarchy should not be a distraction from Epstein's victims.

However, when asked if the issue made her consider whether the monarchy is fit for purpose, she replied: "I think it raises a number of questions.

"I think there is a debate to be had about the longer term future of the monarchy, one of the things though in the context of Prince Andrew that I feel very strongly about is that a debate about the monarchy shouldn't be a distraction from Epstein's victims and how they now get whatever justice they can get and get the truth and the ability to move on.

"And I think while, yes, there is a debate to be had about the former, I don't think it should become conflated with that or be used in any way to sort of take attention from that."

The duke has resigned from a large number of patronages, and seen organisations he was once involved with sever ties in the wake of the Newsnight interview.

A spokesman for the SNP said: "SNP policy is to keep the monarchy in an independent Scotland.

"The First Minister was reflecting the general discussions that have taken place in recent weeks on issues such as the size of the monarchy.

"The FM shares the admiration that the Queen is held in across the UK and has no intention of changing of SNP policy."

Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said: "The monarchy is one of our most loved and respected institutions, and the benefit of having a constitutional monarchy is still widely recognised.

"The First Minister's comments last night would suggest that the SNP's official line on the royal family's role in an independent Scotland has changed.

"The vast majority of Scots will recognise Sturgeon's failure to support the monarchy for what it is - a deeply cynical ploy to appeal to hardcore nationalists.

"This is no more than a shameless attempt to attract the votes of republicans."

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