Friday 19 September 2014

Scotland voted NO

Updated 22nd, 23rd September, 25th and 26th September

The Scottish Independence referendum was held on 18th September.  The turnout was 84.5% and NO votes totalled 2,001,926 and YES votes totalled 1,617,989.  For more on the results see BBC News Scotland 19th September.    Independence was therefore rejected but, as mentioned in my earlier post, the status quo cannot remain though the historic Union will remain in place and major problems relating to membership of the European Union (EU)  and currency have been avoided. 

The Scottish people have been promised greater devolution of power and this must be delivered but the precise details of those powers remain to be thrashed out and time is relatively short given the General Election in May 2015.  However, it appears that
the aim is to have a Bill before Parliament by January 2015.  Numerous other issues are now firmly on the agenda.  For example, the so-called Barnett Formula is popular in Scotland and politicians, desperate to secure a NO vote, have promised its retention but it is deeply unpopular with taxpayers in England.  Then there is the West Lothian question which refers to the fact that Scottish MPs are permitted to vote in Parliament on matters not affecting Scotland.  No doubt, there will also be demands from Wales and Northern Ireland for greater devolution.  A further matter is that the franchise will inevitably have to be extended to all 16 year olds in the UK.  It could not be acceptable to return to 18 in Scotland or, for that matter, to have 16 in Scotland but 18 elsewhere.

In short, many of the United Kingdom's constitutional arrangements are now in the melting pot and, at the moment, there are no clear answers.  Inexorably, the nation appears to be moving toward a federal system of government but that should not be done in a hurry.  The Of Interest to Lawyers blog has a good post on that very question arguing that there we now have an 'historic opportunity to draft a new Written Constitution for the whole of the Union and its constituent parts' but also arguing that 'we need to slow down, convene a Convention and work out a lasting and final settlement, in a written federal constitution, to lay down a fair mode of collective, rights, obligations and governance for the future.  Nothing less will do and nothing less will respect the feelings of the large numbers of people in Scotland and the rest of the Union who are now, but so rarely, politically engaged on these issues.'

I agree that too much haste here may well cause difficulties in the future. The next few weeks will be full of interest ....

Addendum 22nd September:

1. Prime Minister's statement following the referendum

2. The referendum certainly enlivened politics not only in Scotland but elsewhere in the UK.  Questions of constitutional reform are now being raised.  How they will be answered is uncertain.  In a post on the UK Constitutional Law Group blog, Cormac Mac Amhlaigh (Lecturer in Public Law, Edinburgh) argues that a "constitutional convention" ought to be convened rather than matters being left to the political parties to resolve - see . Cormac Mac Amhlaigh, ‘For a Constitutional Convention for the United Kingdom’ UK Const. L. Blog (22nd September 2014)

3.  Following the NO result, Alex Salmond (Scotland's First Minister) said that he would step down in November.  This is discussed in The Guardian 19th September

Despite losing the referendum, the SNP leader claimed that there are alternative routes to independence - Herald Scotland.

Addendum 23rd September:

The Spectator - The Union is saved but at what cost?

Addendum 25th September:

Joshua Rozenberg - The Guardian 19th September - West Lothian question: easy to ask, trickier to answer

Vernon Bogdanor - The Guardian 24th September - Why English votes for English laws is a kneejerk absurdity

Addendum 26th September:

Head of Legal Blog 24th September - Let's avoid a huge constitutional talkfest 

February 2014 - The McKay Commission report


  1. Your assumption that a written constitution is appropriate in this situation is a fallacy, there is no point in adopting the pseudo modernist tendency when it has been show to be outmoded in the USA and in Europe in comparison to ours. To fall into that trap will kill the evolving Union by pandering to politicians not sustain it.Does the NO vote not in fact confirm that the silent majority in Scotland may not want this trite foreign compromise? The written constitution issue will create more legalistic tensions and fractious behaviour than at present, as it has done in France and in Germany but that evil is what politicians thrive upon.

    1. Not my assumption ! It may be the view of the Of Interest to Laywers blog. Nevertheless, after the referendum result, there was definitely talk of "federation" and, as I said - the nation appears to be moving that way. As for written constitutions, for my part, I remain far from convinced that we should adopt one.

  2. Along with WW1 dates we are coming to the period of the centenary of the Easter Rising/Irish War of Independence/Irish Civil War. The commemorative events, celebratory or otherwise, will have an effect on the UK as well as "Ireland" (however it is is defined). Comments (such as by yourself) on the history of Irish Law and Lawyers since 1922 and the L&L relationship with the UK will be of interest - eg: is it separate or symbiotic?

    1. It was an interesting and difficult time and its impact is still there today. Might be a topic to return to.