The Queen warned Scottish voters to "think carefully". Photo: Getty
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Scottish referendum: how the Queen was asked to intervene amid fears of a Yes vote

The Guardian reveals the negotiations that led to the Queen's intervention ahead of the Scottish independence vote.

A few days before the Scottish independence referendum, the Queen warned Scottish voters to "think very carefully about the future". It was the first time she had expressed a view on the vote, and came after reports that she had "a great deal of concern" about the prospect of a Yes vote, following narrowing polls.

The Guardian, which is telling the behind-the-scenes story of "how the Union was saved", reveals the delicate negotiations behind the monarch's intervention.

Its reporting uncovers that when the Queen spoke publicly, it was after she had been urged by senior Whitehall officials who were acting on David Cameron's concerns about the Yes camp developing a rapid last-minute momentum. The government figures suggested the Palace that it would be helpful to the No cause for the Queen to intervene.

The conversations took place between the Cabinet Secretary very close to the Prime Minister, Sir Jeremy Heywood, and Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen's Private Secretary. They initially discussed the wisdom of the Queen speaking out at all, considering how meticulously impartial she has been throughout her reign. The Guardian reports that "the Queen was minded to speak out", which meant the two negotiators then had to work out a way in which she could do so, in the most neutral way possible.

The report also reveals that the PM had discussed the upcoming referendum with the monarch during a stay at Balmoral a week before she spoke publicly. On the last day of his stay, the shock YouGov poll that was the first to put the Yes side ahead, by 51 per cent to 49 per cent, was published. 

This revealing inside take on the build-up to the referendum quotes a Whitehall source, who explains how delicately the Queen's comments were planned:

She knew exactly what she was doing, which is, there are two possible responses on the referendum. [They are] either: one, you buy into this is a fantastic festival of democracy, or two, you suggest this is a decision filled with foreboding. So by saying I hope people will think carefully you imply the second. So if they’d said: ‘What do you think of the referendum ma’am?’ and she’d said: ‘Oh it’s lovely’, that would be very different. Without her taking a side, it cast just the right element of doubt over the nature of the decision.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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Quiz: Can you identify fake news?

The furore around "fake" news shows no sign of abating. Can you spot what's real and what's not?

Hillary Clinton has spoken out today to warn about the fake news epidemic sweeping the world. Clinton went as far as to say that "lives are at risk" from fake news, the day after Pope Francis compared reading fake news to eating poop. (Side note: with real news like that, who needs the fake stuff?)

The sweeping distrust in fake news has caused some confusion, however, as many are unsure about how to actually tell the reals and the fakes apart. Short from seeing whether the logo will scratch off and asking the man from the market where he got it from, how can you really identify fake news? Take our test to see whether you have all the answers.

 

 

In all seriousness, many claim that identifying fake news is a simple matter of checking the source and disbelieving anything "too good to be true". Unfortunately, however, fake news outlets post real stories too, and real news outlets often slip up and publish the fakes. Use fact-checking websites like Snopes to really get to the bottom of a story, and always do a quick Google before you share anything. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.