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Scotland towards Independence? Or how to dissolve the United Kingdom?

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Presentation on theme: "Scotland towards Independence? Or how to dissolve the United Kingdom?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Scotland towards Independence? Or how to dissolve the United Kingdom?

2 Election Victory for the SNP SNP won the parliamentary election in Scotland on 5 May Salmond, SNP´s leader, promised a referendum on Scottish independence SNP has a majority in the Scottish Parliament, so... – Is it all straight-forward? Not quite, as it turns out Today we will explore the constitutional implications of the SNP’s plans for a referendum

3 Constitutional Issues at Stake The prospect of a referendum opened up a frantic debate... What would be the correct constitutional procedure? – Would a referendum be legal / legally binding when organised by Edinburgh? – Were the Scots alone to decide, and who would qualify as Scottish? – Questions asked: two or more alternatives? one or two referenda?

4 Political Maneuvering What complicated the picture for the outside observer and the average voter? – The discussion on the constitutional procedure got mixed up with a political struggle because Separatists and Unionists were both trying to promote their own political interests Ex: when should the referendum be held? Unionists: as soon as possible Separatists: delay to gain greater support Alex Salmond seemed to think he could decide all by himself

5 Cameron Strikes Back... January 2012 – David Cameron: Edinburgh does not have the constitutional right to hold a legally binding referendum – Why not? Crown-in-Parliament (Westminster) is the sovereign body in the United Kingdom Matters concerning the union are not part of the devolved powers. So no referendum unless it is initiated by Westminster.

6 Westminster, the Seat of Power

7 Resolving the Constitutional Issues At the heart of the constitutional debate on the referendum was the political arrangements of the British state: 1.Britain is a unitary state – all power rests with the central level, Westminster – All power at “lower” levels such as Edinburgh are given by Westminster, and can be withdrawn 2.Parliament is the sovereign body in the sense that it is not restricted by any written/codified constitution – in the UK there is none... – In theory, Parliament can pass any legislation on anything with a simple majority

8 Role of the Devolved Institutions By contrast, the powers of the devolved assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are clearly defined through Acts of Parliament These do not involve issues relating to the union – Ok, but what does this mean in practice?

9 England Decides? About 83% of the population in the UK live in England. Parliament (The Commons) is a democratically elected body. It follows that the English MPs will always make up a huge majority in the lower house So are all matters relating to the union to be decided by England alone? - Unlikely...

10 No, Scots Will Decide! Cameron (and Parliament) accepted the following argument: The election victory gave the SNP a mandate from the Scottish electorate to “test” their primary objective: Scottish independence Thus a referendum is to be held in Scotland Negotiations followed, and led to...

11 Agreement on 15 October 2012

12 The Edinburgh Agreement Decided questions of contention Date: – To be held in 2014 – but exact date to be specified Franchise: – As for Scottish Parliament elections + 16 & 17 year-olds Question: In or out? – Single question to be asked, no option of “devo max” – Wording of the question: decided by Scottish Parliament, but reviewed by the independent Electoral Commission

13 Referendum Question The wording of the question to be asked in the referendum has been an issue of contention – Could it affect the outcome? SNP suggestion: Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country Yes/No – Widely seen as biased in favour of a yes-vote Electoral Commission’s suggestion: Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes/No – This seems to be the final version

14 Sir Alex Ferguson “Eight-hundred-thousand Scots, like me, live and work in other parts of the United Kingdom. We don't live in a foreign country; we are just in another part of the family of the UK.” “Scots living outside Scotland, but inside the UK might not get a vote in the referendum, but we have a voice and we care deeply about our country. It is quite wrong of the man who is supposed to be leader of Scotland to try and silence people like this.” “I played for Scotland and managed the Scotland team. No-one should question my Scottishness just because I live south of the border.”

15 Can Sir Sean Connery Vote? Long-time SNP-supporter Scotsman who grew up in Edinburgh Is not currently a resident of Scotland - Not eligible to vote in the referendum

16 Issues at Stake Prospect of Scottish independence raises a number of issues – this is no straight-forward business! 1.Republic or Monarchy? 2.Still a member of the Commonwealth? 3.Citizenship 4.Assets and National Debt

17 More Issues at Stake Some issues are, however, a lot more challenging: 5.Currency 6.Defence 7.EU membership Are we looking at a “watered-down” independence – if any?

18 Defence – What to Do?

19 Is Scottish independence likely? Support for independence in Scotland currently stands at 1 to 2, that is: Opinion polls: 1/3 – yes; 2/3 – no What do you think the Scots should do?


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