Scottish Green co-leader highlights Prince Philip's love of 'bloodsports' and his 'extreme wealth' during tribute

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·5 min read

Watch: House of Commons holds minute's silence for Prince Philip

The co-leader of the Scottish Green Party referenced Prince Philip's love of bloodsports as unreconcilable with today's conservation efforts as he took part in speeches to remember the late duke in Holyrood.

As politicians across the UK return to their chambers for tributes to the Duke of Edinburgh, Patrick Harvie gave a mixed speech in which he said it was right to pay tribute but referenced Philip's "extreme wealth".

Harvie's comments were criticised on Twitter as he was accused of having "no class", although some praised him for being "brave enough not to go with fake partisan of the royal family".

The republican said his party had "reflected carefully" on his decision to take part in the tributes and that it would be "wrong to imply by our absence any kind of personal disrespect to those who have lost someone important to them". 

But he drew some criticism online as he said: "In this chamber as in this country we do not all share the same views of the monarchy or the same feelings today. It would be wrong to pretend that we did.

"And as a party which wishes for an elected head of state we reflected carefully on whether and how we should take part in today's proceedings.

Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Scottish Green Party speaks during a motion of condolence for late Britain's Prince Philip at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain April 12, 2021. Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via REUTERS
Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Scottish Green Party, speaks during a motion of condolence for the late Prince Philip at the Scottish Parliament. (Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via Reuters)

"But just as it would be wrong to give a performance of feelings not sincerely felt, it would equally be wrong to imply by our absence any kind of personal disrespect to those who have lost someone important to them, either personally or otherwise.

"This has been a year of terrible loss, for the world, including up to 150,000 COVID deaths across the UK, most of them announced without ceremony as daily statistics.

"The toll has been heaviest on those with least. But while there is no great leveller in how we live our lives we are today reminded there is no extreme of wealth, privilege or status which can protect us from mortality.

"In this respect every human being is indeed equal, death comes to us all and every family feels the pain of loss.

"So regardless of our different views, respect and compassion are due in equal measure to everyone of us at such times."

Watch: Prince Philip was devoted consort to Queen

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Referencing Philip's efforts on conservation and environmentalism, which have been widely praised in the last few days, he said: "Today's environmental movement overwhelmingly places responsibility for the global crisis on the powerful and would not seek to reconcile conservation with the bloodsports of the wealthy.

"Yet it is still the case that a debt is owed to those whose environmentalism did achieve global awareness, even if it was shaped by different values to today's."

Philip's work on the environment, which shaped much of his royal life, has been noted in tributes across the weekend.

In 1961, he became the president of the World Wildlife Foundation, but in the same year, he shot a tiger while on a visit to India with the Queen. He also said hunting in the UK would help "crop" certain species.

In 2011, Philip said: "When I was president of the WWF, I got more letters from people about the way animals were treated in zoos than about any concern for the survival of a species. People can’t get their heads around the idea of a species surviving, you know, they’re more concerned about how you treat a donkey in Sicily or something."

File photo dated 01/09/72 of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh during a visit to a farm on their Balmoral estate, to celebrate their Silver Wedding anniversary. Balmoral in the Highlands, one of the royals' favourite places, held many memories for the Duke of Edinburgh. The Queen was once said to never be happier than when she was at Balmoral, Philip, too, loved the outdoor life that was synonymous with their annual break, which stretched from the end of July into October. Issue date: Friday April 4, 2021.
The Duke of Edinburgh with the Queen in 1972 during a visit to a farm on their Balmoral estate. They shared a love of the outdoors. (PA Images)

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The comments by Harvie in the Scottish Parliament divided people online, with some praising Harvie for "rattling royalists", or speaking with "a touch of honesty". 

One tweeted: "I may not agree with many green policies, but good on Patrick Harvie...The only reason this 99 year old man is getting a send off other 99 year old men don't get is because of his immense wealth and privilege."

Glasgow University lecturer Ewan Gibb tweeted: "Support for republicanism tends to run at around a third in Scottish opinion polls. Patrick Harvie is just giving voice to a widely felt sentiment."

But Harvie also found himself referred to as "vile" online, with one person saying: "Your appearance today in the debating chamber was a disgrace and you know it was." 

Councillor Linda Holt, who represents East Neuk and Landward in Fife, tweeted; "I'm not a big monarchist but anyone else find @patrickharvie's performance at HR today mean-spirited and tawdry? He makes it really difficult to like the Scottish Greens."

Politicians across all devolved houses and in Westminster are paying tribute on Monday to Philip, sharing memories of their interactions with him and praising his own work including in the Duke of Edinburgh scheme.

Watch: Prince Philip's death has left huge void in Queen Elizabeth's life