Professor Michael Keating speaks about Scotland’s future

Professor Michael Keating is currently writing a paper for The Constitution Society on the important topic of Scotland’s future after the independence referendum in 2014. We will be launching his piece along with responses from CentreForum, the Fabian Society and ResPublica at the party conferences.

In the meanwhile, Professor Keating was kind enough to join us for a quick talk on the issues facing Scotland and her relationship with the rest of the UK. Click here to watch the video.

Professor Keating is the Chair in Scottish Politics at the University of Aberdeen and a key voice on the topics of devolution and nationalism.

The Constitution Society looks forward to launching this timely piece of research in Glasgow at Liberal Democrat party conference, before taking it to Brighton and Manchester platforming the groundbreaking work before Labour and Conservative party conferences respectively. 

Scottish Independence: asking the wrong question?

Following last month’s agreement between David Cameron and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond,  the Scottish Government has now rubber-stamped the SNP’s proposed question for the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence: ‘Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?

The proposed question has yet to be approved by the Electoral Commission. The  Commission’s role in determining the intelligibility of proposed referendum questions is, strictly, merely consultative. However it would be at best embarrassing for the SNP to ignore the Commission’s recommendation. 

 Dr Matt Qvortrup, a member of The Constitution Society’s Working party on Scottish Independence and a leading authority on referendums, said last week that in his view the Electoral Commission are unlikely to endorse the proposed question on the grounds that the word ‘agree’ biaised the question towards an affirmative answer.

 Earlier this year a group of academics including Dr Qvortrup proposed an alternative, neutral, phrasing of the question which is broadly supported by the opposition parties: ‘Scotland should become an independent state: I agree/I do not agree

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Salmond and Cameron agree on independence referendum

The British and Scottish governments have largely agreed on the details of a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014. Though some issues remain to be ironed out, it is understood that there will be a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question with no third option on the devolution of more powers. It also appears that agreement has been reached on allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote on Scotland’s future.

With general agreement reached it seems clear that a referendum on Scotland’s future in the United Kingdom will now be taking place in 2014. The legal consequences of this will be paramount to the Scottish electorate making an informed decision. The Constitution Society will be looking in-depth at these consequences as well as continuing to monitor developments on this important topic.   

9th August 2012

A summary of this term’s constitutional affairs: bringing together debates and questions in Parliament, Select Committee activity and online comment.

As the House of Lords Reform Bill is abandoned and Nick Clegg withdraws the Liberal Democrats’ support for boundary change, two major constitutional reforms are halted by disagreement within the coalition. The argument over political funding continues, as Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone are criticized for using a legal loophole to conceal the identities of donors who funded their mayoral election campaigns. In news on Scottish independence, David Cameron is said to be ready to give the Scottish Parliament the power to hold a referendum but urges the need for a single question. A recent Democratic Audit report voices serious concerns over ‘the increasingly unstable nature of the UK constitution’, and suggests we cannot move past the current crossroads without reaching agreement on a set of democratic values.

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16th April 2012

A summary of this week’s constitutional affairs: bringing together debates and questions in Parliament, Select Committee activity and online comment.


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19th March 2012

A summary of this week’s constitutional affairs: bringing together debates and questions in Parliament, Select Committee activity and online comment.

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Judges, Politicians and the Contested Constitution

By Aidan O'Neill QC

Judges, Politicians and the Contested Constitution

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 ›

Would the Conservatives benefit from Scottish independence?

By Michael Everett, Researcher, The Constitution Society

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.[1] 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.[2] 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

By Dr Matt Qvortrup

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.

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Now We’re Talking: About The Scottish Referendum

By Aidan O'Neill QC

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.

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