Journal Article

Giving with one hand: Scottish devolution within a unitary state

Stephen Tierney

in International Journal of Constitutional Law

Published on behalf of The New York University School of Law

Volume 5, issue 4, pages 730-753
Published in print October 2007 | ISSN: 1474-2640
Published online September 2007 | e-ISSN: 1474-2659 | DOI:
Giving with one hand: Scottish devolution within a unitary state

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  • Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • UK Politics


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This essay employs Scottish devolution as a prism through which to examine two public policies used to manage national diversity: “accommodation” and “integration.” While an accommodationist discourse can certainly capture many of the substantive constitutional outcomes sought by substate national societies, it may not provide the symbolic recognition that will articulate fully a “plurinational” concept of the state. Following from this, the essay focuses on the tension at the heart of the Scotland Act 1998. In terms of its autonomy provisions and the recognition these imply, the act may be seen as a genuine attempt to redefine the United Kingdom's constitution in a plurinational direction. However, in other ways, the structure of the settlement embodies strong integrative tendencies that sustain the categorical distinction between host state national society, on the one hand, and substate national societies, on the other. Finally, it is observed that the expanding powers of the European Union may restrict efforts to reorient the state in a plurinational direction, since many devolved powers of substate nations and regions are subject to the normative supremacy of parallel levels of EU competence.

Journal Article.  10508 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law ; UK Politics

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