The constitutional case for independence

Aileen McHarg

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The independence referendum arose out of an unanticipated set of political circumstances, rather than from a widely-felt and clearly-articulated sense of constitutional grievance. The referendum campaign was also conducted mainly in instrumental terms: dominated by arguments about the substantive policy consequences of independence, rather than overtly focused on Scotland’s governance arrangements. Nevertheless, this chapter argues that the instrumental case for independence was underpinned by a set of constitutional claims - about a democratic deficit; about effective governance; about the place of Scotland in the UK’s territorial constitution; and about the constitution of an independent Scotland –which in fact strongly echoed the constitutional case made for devolution a generation earlier. The chapter evaluates the strength of these arguments, arguing that there is a coherent, albeit not necessarily compelling, constitutional case to be made for independence – but one which seems likely to get stronger if post-referendum political and constitutional trends continue.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Scottish Independence Referendum
Subtitle of host publicationConstitutional and Political Implications
EditorsAileen McHarg, Tom Mullen, Alan Page, Neil Walker
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780198755524
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2016


  • independence
  • referendum
  • Scotland
  • constitution
  • democratic deficit
  • governance
  • devolution


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