Self-determination and the Use of Referendums: The Case of Scotland

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Abstract / Description of output

The Scottish Nationalist Party’s majority in the 2011 Scottish parliamentary elections opened up a wide and interesting debate on the variety of options for Scotland’s constitutional future (ranging from the status quo through a variety of intermediate options to full independence), and with it, also the innovate possibility of a multi-option referendum, reflecting the preferences of the people of Scotland. However, while the UK Government agreed that the future of Scotland’s place within the Union was for the people of Scotland to vote on, it strongly contested the Scottish Parliament’s competence to legislate for the referendum, thus ensuring a role for itself and the UK Parliament in its design. After a period of negotiations, the UK and Scottish Governments signed the Edinburgh Agreement on the 15th October 2012, enabling the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a single question referendum, and expressing their commitment to work together in the interests of all involved. This article begins looking at the background, legal framework and negotiations leading up to the Edinburgh Agreement. It then argues that, while the Agreement is notably significant and has allowed for the smooth and fast development of the process so far, by excluding the possibility of including a third option of ‘more devolution’ on the ballot paper, it is having a series of negative consequences for the current debate, namely that it is more limited, confusing and uncertain, and largely unbalanced in favour of the ‘no’ side.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-66
JournalInternational Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society
Issue number1
Early online date4 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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