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Public demand for independence not legal wrangles will decide future of the Union, top academic says

28 Jul 2022 3 minute read
Mark Drakeford. Picture by CPMR – Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CC BY-SA 2.0) Nicola Sturgeon picture by Arctic Circle (CC BY 2.0).

Public demand for independence not wrangles over the legality of holding a referendum will ultimately decide whether Scotland and Wales leave the UK, a top academic of constitutional politics has said.

In a report for UK in a Changing Europe, Nicola McEwen of Edinburgh University said that the UK Government could continue to put off the issue as long as there is no obvious majority for constitutional change.

The Scottish Government has applied to the Supreme Court for the ability to hold an advisory referendum, a decision that could also set a legal precedent for Wales.

But even if the application is refused the UK Government would only be able to hold out if the public did not demand the break up of the UK, Prof. Nicola McEwen said.

“In Wales, the Government set up an independent commission to explore options for a fundamental reform of the UK’s constitutional governance and strengthen Welsh democracy,” she said.

“But the biggest threat to the Union comes from the Scottish Government’s plans to hold a referendum on Scottish independence in October 2023.”

She added: “Ultimately, the future of the Union will be determined by politics, not law. If there is no legal pathway to an independence referendum, Nicola Sturgeon declared that she would regard the next UK general election as a de facto referendum.

“Such a scenario might suit the Conservatives in the short-term, as the party most likely to benefit electorally from opposition to independence within Scotland.

“And so long as Scotland remains divided on independence, there is neither a legal nor a political imperative to respond to any claims of an SNP mandate.

“But such prolonged constitutional limbo could have a debilitating effect on politics and the Union in the longer term and do little to restore intergovernmental relationships already damaged by Brexit.”

‘Worst’

The report also notes that an incoming Prime Minister may want to take on a different approach to working with the devolved nations of the UK.

“Brexit tensions have been compounded by a more assertive approach to the Union. Boris Johnson’s so-called ‘muscular unionism’ was aimed at strengthening
the UK government’s role and visibility in devolved territories,” the report says.

“Together, these developments have led to a significant erosion in trust between the UK and devolved governments. In research interviews I have been conducting in preparation for a book, it is not unusual for officials from devolved governments to describe relations with the UK government as the worst they have ever been.”


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Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
18 days ago

Nice to know that some proper academic research has been done and that the ‘Muscular Unionism’ (i.e. Colonialism) of the Tories is yielding the lowest trust in the UK for years. The only trouble is that the Tories don’t do evidence based politics so they will take no notice. So perhaps more Muscular Unionism actions will happen and the devolved nations might rise up and say “Enough!”

DAI Ponty
DAI Ponty
18 days ago

Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland and the island dependants like the Falklands are treated no different like the days of empire India Australia etc whichever party is in power in london its not up to the English to decide if a country wants independence but the people of the country that wants bloody freedom to rule themselvs in the case of Scotland they joined by act of Union king james of Scotland became King James of the 2 countries us in Wales where invaded by the english over a period of time and conquered in reality they have no bloody… Read more »

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
18 days ago

So what would constitute public support? You are never going to get 100% of a population in support of anything. At the moment the SNP have complete power in Scotland – what does that say ? Complete power by a party who wants Scottish independence? It’s only a matter of time before the Union dies and there are 3 independent countries in Great Britain. Academics need to start realising this and in Wales begin looking at how we can be a successful independent country.

Dixon David
Dixon David
18 days ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

The SNP doesn’t have complete power in Scotland. It needed that Greens to create a majority.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
17 days ago
Reply to  Dixon David

The SNP are short of a majority by one seat…..still an overwhelming consensus of power given by the Scottish people don’t you think? Considering it is a party that’s primary existence is an independent Scotland that’s a large amount of people leaning towards independence. The Union is due to end no matter what its supporters write here. It’s time we prepared for it in Cymru too.

Dixon David
Dixon David
17 days ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

The SNP campaigns on not being a single issue party.

Unionst parties gained more votes in devolved and UK parliaments at the last elections.

…in Scotland and Wales.

It isn’t dead because you lot hate the ‘sais”.

Sorry to let you know.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
16 days ago
Reply to  Dixon David

Sorry to disappoint mate but I not hate anything and certainly not the English. I dislike and not trust the British government, basically Westminster. I want independence as that institution has neglected Cymru and our children deserve better.

Boris
Boris
17 days ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

Am I missing something here last yr plaid campaigned on a promise to hold an independence vote if elected the result 20% in favour 80% for unionist parties. I think you will be waiting a long time Steve duggan

R W
R W
17 days ago
Reply to  Boris

Numerous polls have shown that more than half of Labour supporters in Wales support Welsh independence.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
17 days ago
Reply to  Boris

The Union is dying, if not dead mate, it’s time to get used to a new set up in the British isles.

Dixon David
Dixon David
17 days ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

I think Wales and Scotland need to sort their health and education before worrying about independence.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
16 days ago
Reply to  Dixon David

The UK government is hardly doing well with the NHS either – and it has far far more money to play with. The NHS in Cymru is far from perfect but it takes time to rectify decades of neglect and, as I mentioned, with a lot less money. I am no Welsh Labour supporter but it has not had sufficient help and support from Westminster in the running of Cymru.

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
18 days ago

It isn’t racist to call this spade a spade. It isn’t the “UK government” at odds with the devolved parliaments, it is the English nationalists.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
16 days ago
Reply to  Kerry Davies

Which is run by English nationalists at the moment.

The Original Mark
The Original Mark
18 days ago

“In Wales, the Government set up an independent commission to explore options for a fundamental reform of the UK’s constitutional governance and strengthen Welsh democracy,” she said. That doesn’t mean they have to or are likely to act on its findings, in fact we have seen only recently how powerless and ineffective the Welsh Government is against Westminster

One of the two witnesses
One of the two witnesses
17 days ago

Tell that to the torygraph

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