Brexit and Scotland

Aileen McHarg, James Mitchell

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In the 2016 Brexit referendum, Scotland voted decisively to Remain in the EU, while a UK-wide majority voted to Leave. This article discusses responses to the constitutional significance of a territorially-divided result, both prior to, and following, the referendum, including in litigation over the ‘constitutional requirements’ necessary to trigger the UK’s withdrawal from the EU under Article 50 TEU (Miller v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union). It considers what these debates reveal about the uncertain and contested nature of the UK’s territorial constitution, focusing on issues of constitutional security for devolved institutions and competences, and constitutional voice for the devolved territories in handling issues of intertwined competence. It argues that the Brexit episode reveals major weaknesses in the dominant reliance on political mechanisms to give recognition to the constitutional significance of devolution, which do not adequately displace continued legal adherence to the assumptions of a unitary constitution.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
Early online date4 Jun 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jun 2017


  • Brexit
  • territorial constitution
  • Scotland
  • devolved government
  • constitutional law

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