Debating Scotland's Future

Indyref 5 Years On

Published: 17 September 2019

As we mark the fifth anniversary of Scotland's independence referendum, Coree Brown Swan rounds up the CCC's commentary and analysis.

Wednesday marks five years since the Scottish independence referendum. During the independence campaign and beyond, fellows and friends of the CCC have contributed their impartial analyses to the debates as they’ve unfolded. We’ve pulled together some of the highlights here.

The night of the vote

As the results rolled in, members of the Future of the UK and Scotland project were on television, radio and online, analysing the results. Eve Hepburn outlined the political and social impact of the vote. Charlie Jeffery argued that the referendum was likely to set off a constitutional chain reaction, with far-reaching implications for the union. Elsewhere, he argued that constitution making on the hoof might have a devastating impact on the union. With talk of broader constitutional chain, Bettina Petersohn assessed the prospects of federalism in the United Kingdom. Michael Kenny traced the impact of the referendum on British politics more broadly and Richard Wyn Jones encourages us to look beyond Scotland when thinking about the referendum. Daniel Cetra draws comparisons with Catalonia.

The immediate aftermath

In the vow made just days before the vote, UK party leaders pledged to explore further devolution for Scotland. The Smith Commission worked towards a tight timetable. Malcolm Harvey assessed the draft legislation. Nicola McEwen looks at welfare in the report and Kirsteen Rummery assesses how the proposals contribute to equality.  Michael Keating tackles the principle of no detriment while Craig McAngus questions how enduring the settlement might be. Neil McGarvey regrets the lack of emphasis on local government in the report. The fiscal framework has been a source of argument between the two governments, says David Eiser. Richard Wyn Jones assesses Smith and the rest of the UK.

The party political landscape after the referendum

In addition to changes in the UK’s constitutional structure, we’ve also experienced changes in party political landscape, both in Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom. Meryl Kenny and Fiona McKay ask about the representation of women in party politics and within political leadership. Reflecting on the SNP’s surge in membership, Thomas Lundberg argues that Scottish politics have been turned upside down by the referendum. Craig McAngus reflected on the 2015 election and its implications for Scotland’s future. The growth and success of the SNP was also a subject of commentary – with James Mitchell analysing the party’s membership, or Nicola’s Army which Jan Eichhorn cautioned in 2015 that a vote for SNP was not a vote for independence. Paul Cairney joined us to talk about the ‘boring’ election of 2016 while James Mitchell returned to analyse the unexpected rebirth of Conservatives in Scotland, under the leadership of Ruth Davidson. In 2017, Alan Convery examined the continued support for the party. As Davidson announced her resignation as leader, Nicola McEwen pondered what next for the party.

What next for independence?

Independence was far from a settled issue but had to be re-examined in a rapidly changing context. Peter Lynch assessed the draft referendum bill while Ailsa Henderson argued that both the no and yes sides in any future independence campaigns would have questions to answer. David Bell returned us to the economic domain, examining life after oil and welfare and independence.  Coree Brown Swan examined the case for independence in a changing world.

The 2016 European Referendum

The European question was omnipresent ahead of the referendum. David McCrone looked at Scotland’s European identities while Nicola McEwen speculated that Brexit could increase support for independence among middle class Scots. Contributors pondered the strategy of Nicola Sturgeon ahead of the vote. Beyond Scotland, Michael Kenny examines the English dimension of the Brexit vote.

As the polls closed on 23rd June, our commentators asked what next for Scotland in a Brexit landscape. Nicola McEwen asked whether the disunited kingdom could survive. Paul Cairney argued that given the Brexit vote, independence may well be inevitable while Craig McAngus tempered expectations, arguing that independence remains a challenge. Contributors have assessed the impact of Brexit on the union, with Sionadh Douglas Scott arguing it represents an existential threat and Philip Rycroft examines the impact on Scotland.

20 years of devolution

This year also marks 20 years of devolution, an issue explored in a special series on devolution at twenty in which contributors assess devolution in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland and reflect on what the coming decades might bring.

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