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On Twitter, conversations around Scotland’s independence, dampened momentarily by a failed referendum in 2014, have been reinvigorated with the advent of Brexit. This article examines how public sentiment towards Scottish independence varies across the United Kingdom’s four constituent nations (England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland) by analyzing tweets made in January of this year in lead up to Brexit. Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of tweets totaling 4,462 (71.4%) on the subject were sent from the mainland of Scotland. 1,387 (22.2%) tweets were sent from England, whereas Wales and Northern Ireland have 286 and 212 tweets respectively, collectively accounting for less than 6% of the all tweets (see Figure 1). Despite the significant difference in the volume of tweets, the …

English devolution has emerged as a prominent feature of the 2015 general election campaign for a number of reasons. One is the ongoing process of devolution that has been taking place across the UK, with the formation of the assemblies for Northern Ireland and Wales, and the Scottish parliament. Another is the aftershock of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Throughout this time, England has also solidified as a distinct national political community. Research indicates that over the past decade or so we have witnessed the progressive “Anglicisation” of the Westminster-based unionist parties. This means that Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats have all become more focused on England, in their political outlook. But up until now, these parties have sought to avoid the complications and risks of large-scale internal organisational reform in England. They have lacked the appropriate party structures, leadership or explicit policy agendas to properly engage with the complex set of “English Questions”, which have emerged in a post-devolution UK.

If we are in a constitutional moment, it is time that ‘We the people’ have a right to settle what happens. A Constitutional Convention (CC) is one way to give the people this leading role. A CC is unlikely to refound the British state if it is set up to function as, in effect, an advisory council to the UK Parliament on a relatively narrow range of issues. The UK is in what the lawyer and political philosopher Bruce Ackerman would call a ‘constitutional moment’. There are, obviously, deep and urgent questions about the future of the Union and ‘devolution’. There are related questions about the second chamber of Parliament and the election itself is likely to raise again questions over the voting system. …

One of the central problems with studying the politics of constitutional change in the UK is that the public does not care about the constitution. Unsurprisingly, constitutional reform does not figure prominently in the party manifestos for the May general election. That does not mean that these documents tell us nothing at all: they show that parties stick with their old policies; that the Conservatives seem to avoid any explicit reference to the constitution; and that all political parties appear to be willing to use the constitution to their own advantage. In this blog post, I distil some of the constitutional issues in the party manifestos of the three largest parties in Westminster in the last parliament: the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats (if there’s time, I will do another post on the smaller parties’ proposals). I define ‘constitutional’ issues as distinct from ‘distributional’ ones, which involve reallocation of resources (and the regulation of behaviour). Constitutional issues are about how decisions are made, not about the outcomes themselves, and should be neutral between, say, more or less progressive (or conservative) substantive policies.

Did you hear about the Silk Commission last week…? No? Let me explain: the Commission produced a report which threw its weight behind a key democratic idea which a country – any country – can adopt to deepen democracy. As the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy & Security noted, developing democracies often have problems that no longer are an issue in mature democracies. But that doesn’t mean that democracy or the accountability process in European countries is perfect. For example, what if you elect politicians who enjoy legislative and spending powers, but who do not have tax or borrowing powers? Wouldn’t that place limitations on democratic accountability, or to turn a phrase, be representation without taxation?