A Separate or United Kingdom: The context and consequences of the independence referendum

Scotland: Diaspora and Independence

Much of the discussion around the relevance of migration and migrants to the Scottish independence debate revolves around the effects of independence on current immigration policies in Scotland and the rest of the UK. But in the last two centuries, Scotland’s population change has been characterised more by emigration than by immigration.

Clear data on the actual size of the Scottish diaspora are hard to come by and are critically dependent on how one chooses to define ‘Scottish diaspora’. The number of people born in Scotland and living outside the UK, for example, is estimated at about 200,000, while about 850,000 Scottish-born people are believed to live elsewhere in the UK (Shaw 2013). These relatively modest numbers are dwarfed, though, by estimates of the size of the ‘Scottish diaspora’ using looser interpretations of the term that include those with more distant Scottish ancestry, in particular those who still consider themselves to be, in some way, Scottish. When these more distant ‘Scots’ are included, estimates of the size of the diaspora increase to more than 30 million (Sim 2011) – with some suggesting the number could be as high as 100 million. Clearly, larger numbers relate to those whose sense of Scottishness is based on more distant heritage – potentially going back several generations – or even less tangible relationships with Scotland.

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A Separate or United Kingdom: The context and consequences of the independence referendum

Scottish Independence and the Union Jack

There are a number of important arguments for why Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom: the need to avoid further economic turbulence in already troubled times; the benefits of being a relatively large country with far-reaching international influence; and the long history and common values that we share with the Scots. But perhaps most important of all is what I shall call the Union Jack argument: the prospect that we might have to relinquish what is, by any objective standard, the best national flag in the world.

For readers unfortunate enough not to be familiar with the Union Jack, it comprises three main elements: a red St George’s cross overlain on a white background, which represents the nation of England (and Wales); a white St Andrew’s cross overlain on blue background, which represents the nation of Scotland; and a red St Patrick’s cross overlain on a white background, which represents the nation of Northern Ireland. The flag first took its present form on the 1st of January 1801 when the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain were brought together under the Acts of Union 1800.

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Oxford to Yemen: from literary scholar to tribal adviser

In today’s academic environment, two watchwords that crop up on most project target lists are interdisciplinarity and impact. Find out how both are being brought to bear on new research in the outlying tribal regions of Yemen. As a Senior Research Fellow and Arabic specialist I have been working in Egypt and Yemen in the years following the outbreak of the Arab Spring in 2010. My research started in Egypt with a survey of media, culture and public opinion in the aftermath of the revolution, together with political scientists from Oxford’s DPIR and Cairo University. At the same time, my study of the use of poetry in Yemen’s jihadist journals brought me to a new political interest in how Yemen’s transition to a federal system is playing out in Yemen’s eastern regions. Together with local tribesmen, I sought to gather popular opinion on the range of social, economic and political challenges facing them, which in turn precipitated the formation of an elected cross-tribal council. I’m continuing to talk to governments and the UN about problems faced by the tribes in eastern Yemen and the associated political instability.

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Margaret MacMillan “The War that Ended Peace”

This month, which sees the centenary anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, is a time of reflection and remembrance for Europe. It is therefore an appropriate time for Politics in Spires to review Professor MacMillan’s recent book on this origins of the First World War, The War that Ended Peace. Below is an interview with Margaret Macmillan and a review by her interviewer, Katharine Brooks.

The War that Ended Peace can truly be termed a masterful work of scholarship, detailing the origins of the war in both outstanding breadth and depth. The book does not tell a new story of the origins of World War I, but it does tell a more intimate one. Macmillan manages to synthesise a consideration of the environmental and structural factors in the years before 1914 with a sympathetic and engaging examination of the particular motivations and characters of the men who took Europe to war in 1914.

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Stabilising provincial Afghanistan: How to get It right

Kabul’s ongoing presidential election negotiations aren’t the only dramatic transition underway in Afghanistan. The ambitious U.S.-led “surge” launched in 2009, which bolstered foreign troops mainly in southern and eastern Afghanistan, has given way to a drawdown, paralleling a major downsizing in the development sphere. Aid budgets are contracting, and provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) and other subnational civil-military installations — long key international platforms to distribute aid and engage local politics outside Kabul — are closing down.

As the local-level foreign official presence phases out of more volatile and remote areas, how should donor assistance strategies adjust? A new paper from the U.S. Institute of Peace, which builds upon fieldwork from the past three years, argues that 2014 marks an important opportunity for donors to recalibrate three central tenets of their subnational governance and development strategy.

First, donors should revise their conceptions of assisting Afghan government “service delivery.” To be sure, delivering services seems commonsensical in a country that sorely lacks them, but PRT-based projects often confused their ambition to cultivate recurring services with their reality of launching a constellation of unsystematic and often one-time projects. The sheer numbers of foreign personnel and agencies operating at the subnational level — all responding to a higher-level focus on “burn rates” — further fueled the disparate character of aid distribution.

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A Separate or United Kingdom: The context and consequences of the independence referendum

Scotland and the European Union: A legal analysis

Should Scots vote for independence, this will be the first case of secession from an EU member state. There is no precedent which would suggest whether or not an independent Scotland would (automatically) become an EU member state and whether Scots would retain rights stemming from EU citizenship. Analogies have been attempted with Algeria and Greenland, but they crucially differ from Scotland in law and fact. Algeria was effectively a French colony, although formally a Department, and its independence was a matter of decolonisation. This is not the case in Scotland. Greenland remained under Denmark’s authority, but exited what was then the European Economic Community (EEC). Scotland is seeking to do the opposite – leave an EU member state and remain in the EU.

The EU is based on international treaties. When new states emerge, some treaties indeed continue to apply in the territory of the new state, if the predecessor state was a party to them. The treaties regulating human rights and humanitarian matters are particularly known to operate in this way. However, there is no such automaticity where treaties that establish international organisations are concerned. Strictly speaking, the EU is not an international organisation, but such an analogy can be established for our purposes here. The UN Charter is also a treaty and an independent Scotland would not accede to it automatically, either. It would need to apply and become a member anew. The same would happen with its EU membership. By becoming independent, Scotland prima facie also exits the EU. However, there is a structural problem in EU law about such an exit.

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“When is Genocide Permissible?” Never.

Last week Yochanan Gordon posted a blog entry on The Times of Israel’s website entitled “When is Genocide Permissible?” The answer to this question so blatantly obvious that one has to wonder why the question was asked. Indeed, this inaugural post was almost one word long. However, I felt compelled to look at Mr. Gordon’s reasoning given that it has caused such outrage among people on both sides of the conflict. To borrow from J.S. Mill, doing otherwise makes dead dogma out of living truth (Mill, 37). Genocide is obviously evil, but the forensic examination of an argument with which we disagree is the best way to refute it and, hopefully, convince those who hold it to put it aside.

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A Separate or United Kingdom: The context and consequences of the independence referendum

Iain McLean and Jim Gallagher on Scottish independence

Prof Jim Gallagher and Prof Iain McLean, co-authors of Scotland’s Choices, answer questions about the Scottish independence referendum. They give their views on many of the issues at stake, including citizenship, currency, higher education, and the European Union. Asked to consider a ‘yes’ victory, they explain the complexities of independence negotiations between the Scottish and UK governments.

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