Could Brexit Yet Undermine the Future of the British State?

Twenty years ago today, the Scottish Parliament acquired the legislative powers that it had been granted under the 1998 Scotland Act. The new body, housed temporarily in the Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland at the top of the Mound in Edinburgh, was formally opened by the Queen, and the occasion marked by a […]

Twenty Years of Devolution: A Lesson in the Law of Unintended Consequences?

Twenty years ago today, Scots went to the polls to elect their new devolved Scottish Parliament. Although in specifying that the new parliament should be elected by a system of proportional representation Labour had accepted that it might not be able to win an overall majority and might need to share power with the Liberal […]

The Scottish Conservatives: Facing Cold Winds From The South?

Last year Scots Tories had to abandon their annual conference thanks to the ‘Beast from the East’. This year it is political winds from the south that are blowing cold for the party as it gathers this weekend in Aberdeen. In similar vein to the pattern in England and Wales, much of the advance achieved […]

The Swings and Roundabouts of Nationalist Fortune

There is, perhaps, likely to be an unspoken hope stalking the corridors of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre where the SNP gather for their spring conference this weekend. It is that, rather than being resolved via a second referendum, the Brexit impasse should eventually precipitate a general election. For, so far as voting intentions for […]

Can Scottish Labour Deliver for Jeremy Corbyn?

Not so long ago, what happened in Scotland appeared immaterial to the outcome of a UK general election. The country was full of safe Labour seats that seemed unlikely to change hands, while the Conservatives appeared unable to do much more than secure the odd crumb.  The prospects for a change in the tenancy of […]

Tough New Questions For The Liberal Democrats?

In truth, until the events of this week at Westminster, the opening salvo of this spring’s Scottish party conferences – the Liberal Democrat gathering this weekend in Hamilton –  looked as though it would be a rather uninteresting affair.  However, the formation of the new Independent Group of MPs has given the occasion some unexpected […]

Is Brexit a Springboard or a Balancing Act for Nicola Sturgeon?

The outcome of the EU referendum appeared to represent a political opportunity for the nationalist movement. The majority vote to remain in the EU (by 62% to 38%) was sharply at odds with the outcome across the UK as a whole, and there seemed to be no better illustration of the nationalist argument that, for […]

How Well Do Voters Understand Tax Devolution?

Next week’s Scottish Budget (on December 12) will be the third since the Scottish Parliament acquired full responsibility for setting the tax rates and bands in Scotland on earned income, a development that represents one of the most important changes to the devolution settlement since the advent of devolution. While initially the Scottish Government adopted […]

On the Myth of a Growing Sense of English Identity

One of the key features of the devolution settlement in the UK is that it has become increasingly asymmetric, as both the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly have gradually gained more powers. In contrast, only relatively minor changes have been introduced in England – (i) changing the procedures of the House of Commons so that […]

A Tale of Two Scenarios: Actual and Hypothetical Independence Polling

Almost inevitably, the SNP conference has occasioned something of a flurry of polling. After nearly three months without any polls of voting intentions in an election or any future  independence referendum, yesterday two polls commissioned by newspapers were published, one by Panebase for Sunday Times Scotland, and one by Survation for the Sunday Post In […]

Nicola Sturgeon’s Brexit Dilemma

Doubtless the question that delegates gathering at the SNP conference in Glasgow this weekend will have uppermost in their minds is whether Nicola Sturgeon will fire the starting gun for a second independence referendum. When in June of last year she announced that she was putting on hold the Scottish Parliament’s request to Westminster that […]

How Brexit Became A Problem For Nicola Sturgeon

When the outcome of the EU referendum was announced, it looked at first glance as though it represented a golden opportunity for the nationalist movement. The divergence between the majority Remain vote in Scotland and the majority Leave vote across the UK as a whole provided what must have seemed to nationalists like a perfect […]

A Question of Focus? The Choices Facing the SNP

The SNP seems set to start its conference in Aberdeen on Friday in a somewhat uncertain mood. Now just over two years into its third term in office, the party has to decide what to do with the three years that it has left before it has to face the voters again. Should it try […]

Does The SNP’s ‘Growth Commission’ Matter?

One of the most widely discussed and debated issues in the Scottish independence referendum campaign was whether leaving the UK would be good or bad for Scotland’s economy. Those on the Yes side argued that public policy could be tailored more effectively to Scotland’s distinctive economic needs, while those advocating a No vote claimed that […]

Is There Any Room for the Liberal Democrats?

Back in 1999, the creation of the Scottish Parliament seemed like a heaven-sent opportunity for the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Given that the new body was to be elected using proportional representation (the result of successful bargaining with Labour in the Scottish Constitutional Convention), it was unlikely that any single party would ever win an overall […]