International Law, the Scottish Independence Debate and Political Settlement in the UK

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Abstract: This chapter examines the role that international law played in the Scottish independence debates. I argue that international law – perhaps surprisingly – played a central role. International law was used by both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns in strategically instrumental ways, to bolster their political claims as to the consequences of independence. The unusual centrality of international law to British constitutional debate signals just how important international law has become with respect to processes of political settlement globally. I suggest that the creation of an international law of polity formation is itself a fast-moving international legal development, illustrating a dynamic whereby the attempt to regulate polity formation by reference to international legal argument carries an extraordinary capacity to re-shape international law. I suggest that this was the case with the Scottish independence referendum.

Keywords: Scotland; Independence; UK; Constitution; Unionism; International Law

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