British & Scottish Politics

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The third in a series of five podcasts coinciding with the UK General Election Campaign.This week Professor Ailsa Henderson of the University of Edinburgh, School of Social and Political Science & Mark Diffley, Director at Ipsos MORI Scotland discuss the polls. What are they saying, how reliable are they, how should they be interpreted? Elections @ edinburgh gets behind the numbers on the GE2017 campaign trail.

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At one time, Scottish politics, like those elsewhere in Great Britain, divided rather clearly on the left-right axis, with elections disputed between Labour and the Conservatives. In the mid-twentieth century, they divided the vote fairly evenly between them. Since the 1970s, another axis has become significant, the unionist-nationalist divide. Now there is an additional one, on Europe, between Remain and Leave supporters. The old party system has broken down, creating instability and marked shifts in support from one election to the next.
 
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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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