Leaving Westminster: Constitutional Supremacy in an Independent Scotland

Reports & Briefings
Stephen Tierney

On 16 June the Scottish Government unveiled its Scottish Independence Bill in an address by Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister of Scotland, to the Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law.

The referendum on independence for Scotland will be held on 18 September this year and commentators have been waiting for a detailed elaboration of the constitutional steps that would be taken by the Scottish Government in the event of a Yes vote by the people. The Scottish Independence Bill (‘the Bill’) sets out an interim constitution which, it is intended, will be passed by the Scottish Parliament to take effect on Independence Day (scheduled for 24 March 2016), and also paves the way for the drafting of a permanent constitution by a constitutional convention which will probably commence work later that year.

In a related post one member of my research team has looked at the transitional arrangements necessary to bring these changes about. In this piece I will set out the background to the proposal, look at the terms of the proposed interim constitution contained within the Bill, and consider the process by which a permanent constitution might be drafted. I will conclude by asking whether highly elaborate and detailed constitutions are really needed in a healthy parliamentary democracy, or whether in fact an independent Scotland would be better served by maintaining the advantages of the Westminster model, trusting in an open political process in which important decisions are left to parliament or to citizens acting directly in referendums.