British & Scottish Politics

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Jeremy Corbyn’s acquiescence in an early General Election has confirmed the supposition that if pushed an opposition party would never want to appear to be frightened of going to the country. The result has been to nullify the point of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 except when there is a coalition government. And the concept of the overriding two-thirds majority of members applies also to the Scottish Parliament – indeed it originates in the devolution legislation of 1998. This gives Nicola Sturgeon a precedent should she find it tactically opportune to do the same.
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Nicola Sturgeon’s letter of 31 March 2017 to Theresa May stated that ‘the Scottish Parliament has now determined by a clear majority that there should be an independence referendum’. That would now be the common assumption. But in fact the motion does not mention independence, let alone specify whether what is envisaged is independence within the European Union.
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In this blog Professor Tierney argues that the legality of a unilateral referendum organised by the Scottish Parliament is a grey area. He also offers personal reflections from his experience as a parliamentary adviser at the time of the 2014 referendum and contends that a referendum held without an agreed process would have been damaging then and would be damaging now. It is incumbent upon both governments to ensure that a political solution to the current dispute is achieved and that, in particular, such a divisive issue is not left to the courts to settle. 
 
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With Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May taking apparently incompatible positions over a second independence referendum, Michael Keating considers whether the constitution is now at breaking point. 

The UK Government’s decision appears to be final. A Scottish independence referendum is not ruled out in principle but it is off the table until after Brexit. This is understandable from the UK perspective. The Government has no desire to conduct a war on two fronts or to weaken the UK position in negotiations with the EU. 

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Richard Parry discusses considerations facing Theresa May as decision time approaches on a second independence referendum. 
 
Theresa May’s speech in Glasgow on 3 March developed a line of argument that opened up a new perspective on devolution and the Conservative Party’s role in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland: 
 
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