Issues of Sovereignty: Redefining Politics in Scotland

Books & Articles

The issue of sovereignty has never been resolved in Scotland. The 1998 Scotland Act, creating the Scottish Parliament affirmed that the Westminster Parliament is sovereign, but this is disputed. In practice, the issue was left largely in abeyance as sovereignty was seen as an outdated concept. The Scottish independence referendum of 2014 and the UK Brexit referendum of 2016 both brought back the question of sovereignty in stark terms. Analysis of data from the British Election Study of 2019 with regard to (a) the right of Scottish self‐determination, and (b) the right of a UK‐wide majority to take Scotland out of the EU, allows us to identify ‘sovereigntists’ and ‘unionists’. Sovereigntists, on both dimensions, now constitute a majority. A smaller group of unionists reject both positions. There remains a group of ‘semi‐sovereigntists’ who accept Scottish self‐determination, but also that the UK as a whole should decide on Brexit. Controlling for the social and political factors, Scots are increasingly polarised around issues of sovereignty, which have become central to contemporary Scottish politics.

McCrone, D. and Keating, M. (2021), Questions of Sovereignty: Redefining Politics in Scotland?. The Political Quarterly.

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