A summary of this week’s constitutional affairs: bringing together debates and questions in Parliament, Select Committee activity and online comment.
- APPG (6)
- Constitutional Round-up (7)
- Devolution (14)
- Electoral Reform (35)
- Europe (12)
- Executive (16)
- House of Lords (24)
- Judiciary (10)
- Legislative Standards (5)
- Local Government (3)
- Monarchy (4)
- Parliament (31)
- Parliament and Party Politics (2)
- Publications (5)
- Scottish Referendum (6)
- Select Committees (10)
- Young People and the Constitution (4)
Conrad Russell once observed that the essential problem of the relationship between Scotland and England “could be defined by saying that England could brook no equal, and Scotland no superior.” Read more ›
A few weeks ago David Cameron attempted to seize the initiative over the question of Scottish independence by suggesting that the SNP should hold a referendum on this question sooner rather than later. Several reasons have been offered for Cameron’s actions, including the argument that the political and economic uncertainty surrounding Scotland’s place in the Union is bad for business and foreign investment. Perhaps the most intriguing rumour doing the rounds at Westminster, however, is that several senior Tories, including George Osborne, favour an early referendum because they believe it offers the Conservatives a ‘win-win’ situation.
Behind this argument lies a belief that an early referendum is likely to favour the unionists. Polls suggest that support for independence in Scotland is currently low. A referendum held in the near future would therefore probably result in a ‘no’ to Scottish independence. Read more ›
The Weakest Link: The UK government’s legal argument for a binding referendum on Scottish independence runs counter to international and constitutional law
When Michael Moore stood at the Dispatch Box at Westminster on the 10th of January he had a simple message; Scotland’s constitutional settlement rests with Westminster and Scottish independence would require the consent of London.
It could be argued that this view is somewhat at odds with international law and it might not be compatible with the constitutional doctrine of referendums in the United Kingdom.
Leaving aside the issue of whether Scotland should become independent or not, it is important that things are done in accordance with accepted principles of constitutional and international law.
In an article originally posted on the UK Supreme Court Blog this month, Aidan O’Neill QC discussed the legal issues surrounding a referendum on Scottish Independence:
In a post on the UKSC blog in November of last year I suggested that it would be worthwhile talking about the proposed referendum on Scottish independence which Scotland’s First Minister has pledged to hold sometime in the lifetime of the current Scottish Parliament, most recently suggesting that it may be held in Autumn 2014.
This seminar was conducted by Prof Ron Johnston, Prof Charles Pattie and David Rossiter who presented the findings of their audit of the public consultation phase of the boundary review. All commissions must present their Final Report to the Secretary of State by 1 October 2013.
What fundamental changes were made?
The criteria for determining the boundaries changed from an organic one to an arithmetic one and this fact dominates the kind of transformation that will be seen. In the past the drawing up of constituency boundaries took into account a sense of community and historical connections between places, the new system laid out in The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 is defined by mathematical rules. These rules require that all UK Constituencies (with the exception of four) have electorates within -/+5% of the national quota of 76,641. The effects of this mean that it has often been impossible for the Boundary Commissions to keep historically and socially connected areas together.
Nick Clegg claims PM’s backing for bill to create elected Lords
Nick Clegg will signal that Lords reform will be the key parliamentary battleground of next year by promising the next Queen’s speech will include plans for an elected upper house that will be forced past peers if necessary.
In a speech on Monday to the Demos thinktank, the deputy prime minister will make the changes central to what he says is a drive to create an open society free of vested interests.
The endgame for the Scotland bill
The Scotland bill, framed to implement the Coalition’s Programme for Government commitment to implement the recommendations of the Calman Commission, had its second reading in the House of Lords in October. It has also been reconsidered by the Scottish Parliament during the autumn, following a first consideration in late 2010 and early 2011. The Lords Committee stage has been put on hold pending its reconsideration at Holyrood. Following May’s election, the new Parliament has a very different composition to the old one. Despite the conditional approval given to the bill by the old Parliament before the election and the wider demands of the SNP majority, the UK Government has declined to change the bill.
Fresh battle looms between European human rights court and UK
Prosecutors could be forced to stop using evidence from victims and witnesses who do not attend court in another human rights battle between Britain and Europe. The case is the first significant clash between European judges and the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court, over who should dictate domestic law.
Public to decide whether to ‘recall MPs’ by petition
MPs guilty of serious wrongdoing could be forced to stand down and face a by-election if enough constituents want them “recalled” under new proposals.
Under government plans, 10% of an MP’s constituents would have to sign a petition for a by-election to happen.