Monthly Archives: August 2014

Scottish Independence: How do you decide?

I often hear that people don’t have enough information to help them make a decision about the independence referendum. Yet, there is too much information. Most people, starting now, would not be able to wade through all the literature. I stopped trying a long time ago.

I also hear that what we need is an ‘objective’ guide; someone to pull together all the evidence so that people can read it and make an informed decision. This will never happen. There is no objective guide. Indeed, the whole idea of objectivity is misleading. Anyone presenting ‘evidence’ on the debate is giving a partial story. This is clear when you hear people making the best, most optimistic, cases for or against evidence. If you want a well-rounded case, you don’t ask Salmond or Darling.

It’s less clear when alleged experts join in, but the biases are still there if you look hard enough. Everyone tells you some things and leaves out the rest; they describe to you one simple part of a complicated picture. Then, another expert will tell you the direct opposite. So, there will never come a point when you read enough to make a decision based on ‘the evidence’.

What can we do instead? I suggest two strategies.

The first strategy is to engage critically with any information you receive. Don’t take it at face value. Instead, consider:

  • Who is giving me the information and to what extent can I trust them? This is relatively easy when you read a Yes or No pamphlet or listen to campaigners in debates. Set your trust levels to low (often, these messages simply reinforce what you believe, or tick you off). Or, at least, try to combine their accounts to see if there is any middle ground (which is not always possible). It’s harder when people are brought in as ‘experts’. For every business guru, lawyer or University professor on one side, there seems to be an equivalent on the other. It is not a good idea to assume that, just because Professor Something said something it is true. What you should think about professors is that they have excellent reputations based on research and scholarly excellence in a particular field – not that everything they say is gold. Beware, in particular, the Professor with expertise in one field (such as law or economics) trying to give you his/her views of another (such as economics or law).
  • What do people really mean? What tends to happen in this debate is that no-one wants to give any ground. As a result, the debates tend to be very limited and partial, producing more heat than light. A simple example is the prospect of currency union: ‘keeping the pound’ can refer to using it as a means of exchange (simple enough) or agreeing to use the Bank of England as a lender of last resort. Or, NHS ‘privatisation’ can refer to anything from the use of private companies to deliver health services, to a less-well funded service, or the removal of a tax funded service. Or, people use ‘Barnett formula’ to mean Scotland’s budget rather than the means to adjust it.
  • How much of the information is based on what they claim to know versus what they predict? Some problems are easy to spot: beware any prediction of Armageddon or a better world. If a prediction for a new world seems too good to be true, you know what to do. If someone says that everything will be shite, you can dismiss them quite easily. It’s harder to spot expert predictions based on one part knowledge and nine parts soothsaying. A good general rule is that a prediction becomes less useful for every year into the future it goes (my favourite example is the fifty year economic prediction). If the future involves people, it is not easily predictable.
  • How does this information compare with other information? One way to deal with information from one source is to compare it with as many other information sources as possible. So, for example, if you hear a point made in a debate, or read it in a leaflet, you can compare it with the thoughts of, say, critical media commentators (boo!) and academics (yay!). Or, you can simply ask yourself: is this an assertion, with no evidence, or can they back up what they are saying?

Unfortunately, this is not a good enough strategy on its own, largely because:

  1. Much of the relevant information is not available. We don’t know how people will behave after the vote – how, for example, the negotiations would progress after a Yes vote, how businesses and ‘the markets’ would react, or how the political parties would react to demands for more devolution after a No vote.
  2. There is too much information to process.
  3. We have to trust some people to give us useful information; to give us an account of the evidence on which we can rely.

So, the second strategy is to find ways to simplify your decision, to make it ‘good enough’. Forget that sexist crap about some people thinking with their hearts and other people with their heads. Forget the idea of staying awake from now until the 18th to make sure you’ve considered every indyref statement. Instead, we all use short-cuts to make sure that we pay attention to some information and ignore the rest – and, for all of us, those short cuts include our established beliefs (we tend to reject some information if it contradicts our beliefs) and our emotions. Don’t feel bad if you feel passionately about something and can’t quite explain why. Don’t feel inadequate if someone else tells you that their decision is somehow more ‘rational’. Instead, seek simple ways to combine emotions with ‘rationality’:

  1. Work out your priorities. For some, it’s about the future of the pound or the NHS. For some, it’s about the environment or Trident. For others, it’s about ‘Westminster’ and a desire to have policy decisions made within Scotland. For you, it may be about all of these things, but they may not be as important as each other. It is worth considering these priorities before you engage with the information.
  2. Work out what you are willing to give up. There is no realistic scenario in which everyone will be better off after a certain vote, or that everything will improve in each area. Rather, we are making important choices about what we are willing to give up to secure something else. For some, the uncertainty about the pound seems to trump all else. For others, it is about a principle that is more important than a guaranteed outcome.
  3. Identify your ‘gut feeling’ about which way to vote and ask yourself why you feel that way.
  4. Don’t be too annoyed. It is easy to decide to vote one way or another because someone in the Yes or No camp annoys you, or they appear to present misleading material, or give you a message in a patronising way. It’s not about them – otherwise, I think that most of us would spoil our ballot papers.

Then vote .


Filed under Scottish independence, Scottish politics

If there is a Yes vote in the #indyref, will you be deported?

It sounds like a ridiculous question, but it came up again on Radio Scotland this morning – someone’s Polish friends were worried that they would not be able to stay in Scotland because Scotland would not be part of the European Union. My colleagues also recently gave an information session, through an interpreter, to reassure people that they would be OK.

One thing that should be reassuring to people who know little about the debate is this:

Scotland would not become an independent state on the 19th of September.

Therefore, it would not leave the European Union and seek re-entry from the 19th. Instead, initially, it remains part of the UK, which is the EU member state. It would then negotiate its entry to the EU from that position. There may be some doubt about the timetable. Many people suggest that it would take longer than 18 months to secure EU entry. However, those people are not suggesting that people would be deported in the meantime.

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Who won the second #Indyref Debate? Ask the audience

To work out who won these debates between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling, you have to ask the audience. The trouble is that different audiences will tell you different things.

If you asked the studio audience, they’d say that Darling won the first round and Salmond the second – a point reinforced by most of the media coverage (such as in the Daily Mail, Guardian, Herald, Financial Times, New Statesman and Huffington Post) . However, I think this says much more about the bias of the audiences, and their participation in the debate, than Salmond and Darling. At key points, the audience seemed more important than the politicians on stage (thus bringing to life Schattschneider’s famous thought experiment). Salmond and Darling were making very similar points in both debates. In the first, Salmond was uncomfortable and seemed defensive when pressed to reveal his currency ‘Plan B’. This time, he was self-assured when presenting ‘three Plan Bs’. In the first debate, the currency argument was working great for Darling. This time, you could hear people ridiculing him when he tried to press the point home. It seemed to make a difference, giving Salmond the confidence to make a further claim, which might have faced an audible backlash in the first debate: if we don’t get our share of the Bank of England’s assets, we can’t be expected to share the UK’s debts.

Darling often seemed defensive or repetitive, and lost his cool enough to break ranks from Better Together to stress his Labour credentials – which he is entitled to do, but it suggests that he has an uneasy temporary alliance with his Conservative and Liberal Democrat colleagues. He also seemed unable to adapt quickly enough to Salmond’s surprisingly-subtle and relatively soft concern about the future of the Scottish NHS – a topic which has often proved important enough to knock the currency issue off the headlines. In the lead up to the debate, Better Together’s argument was about the Yes campaign’s ‘scaremongering’ and ‘lies’, which related to the claim that: privatisation of the English NHS would reduce spending on the Scottish NHS; it might oblige Scotland to follow the same path (a problem exacerbated by the new ‘TTIP’ trade deal between the US and EU); and, only a written Scottish constitution could guarantee a public health service. Yet, Salmond merely said that, in the future, the UK government might start charging fees and spend less on the NHS, which could have a knock-on effect for the Scottish budget (Health Secretary Alex Neil went a bit further in the Scottish Parliament). I think this wrong-footed Darling, who seemed determined to identify the Yes campaign’s scaremongering regardless.

If you asked the ‘snap poll’ audience, you would get the same answer: Darling won the first round (56% agree, if you remove don’t knows) and Salmond the second (71%). Note that, of course, your response very much depends on who you already support. Note also that it is difficult to avoid the manly punch up metaphor, which seems appropriate, given how long Salmond and Darling engaged in some entertaining/ off-putting verbal sparring.

However, right now, the only audience that matters is the voting public. Remember that, in the first debate, a Darling ‘win’ produced either the same opinion poll results or a slight bump for Yes in a small number of polls. This time, Salmond’s win had no immediate impact on the vote. As John Curtice argues, we won’t know if there has been an effect, if any, until we wait for people to read and think about the debate and its coverage over the next few days and weeks.



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Accountability and oversight of the security services in an independent Scotland

This brief paper examines the current role of the Scottish Parliament, to help examine how it might oversee the security functions of the Scottish Government in an independent Scotland. I prepared it for the seminar series ‘Security in Scotland, with or without constitutional change’ convened by Andrew Neal.

Key points[1]:

  1. The Scottish Parliament was designed to be distinctive when compared to Westminster – with powerful, business-like, committees at its heart. This approach sounds well-suited to security oversight, which may require unusually high levels of cross-party cooperation and discretion.
  2. Yet, the Scottish Parliament remains part of the ‘Westminster family’ and committees suffer the same limitations – limited resources, high turnover, and a strong party whip – which undermine their independence, expertise and ability to secure information.
  3. Indeed, the Scottish Parliament may have more limitations than Westminster, including a smaller pool of recruitment and less-developed backbench career path.
  4. Independence could exacerbate these problems. We face the prospect of an already-stretched Scottish Parliament with more responsibilities but the same resources.

The Scottish Parliament was designed to be distinctive when compared to Westminster

The Scottish Parliament was designed, in some ways, to be a powerful and effective legislature with committees at the heart of its work.

  • Committees were designed to combine standing and select committee roles, to foster expertise among their members.
  • The idea was that committees would become relatively independent from government. Most committees are permanent and not subject to government dissolution. They have rela­tively few members, to allow them to develop a ‘businesslike’, not partisan, culture. The number of convenors (chairs) is proportional by party and they are selected by each committee.
  • The hope was that MSPs would, to some extent, leave their party affiliations at the door, to engage in relatively consensual scrutiny without the same potential for grandstanding in public.
  • It was invested with further powers and functions that we associate with relatively strong legislatures. Committees consider each stage of the legislative process before plenary. They can invite witnesses and demand government documents. They monitor of the Scottish Government’s pre-legislative consultation. Further, if all else fails, they have the ability to initiate their own bills.

Yet, the Scottish Parliament remains part of the ‘Westminster family’

The Scottish Parliament was not designed to be a powerful legislature in the way that we associate with political systems such as the United States. There are not the same divisions of powers and checks and balances between executive, legislature and judiciary. Instead, the executive operates at the heart of the legislature and, when enjoying a single or coalition party majority, has the ability to control its procedures. There is an expectation that the Scottish Parliament will not ‘share power’ in the way we would understand that phrase in the US. Rather, this is a traditional Westminster-style relationship in which the Scottish Government is expected to produce most policy, including legislation and amendments to legislation. The Scottish Parliament generally performs a scrutiny role to legitimise the outputs of the Scottish Government.

In practice, its distinctive elements are overshadowed by ‘universal’ constraints to Westminster-style Parliaments. Scottish Parliament committees:

  • Operate in a system in which the party whip is strong, which limits the kind of independence of MSPs necessary to perform a business-like role. From 1999-2007 and 2011 onwards, the governing party or coalition enjoyed a majority of MSPs on all committees.
  • Possess insufficient resources to perform an effective scrutiny role. Committees have 2-3 staff and 7-9 MSPs, and meet infrequently (Tuesday, Wednesday and/ or Thursday morning, during each session).
  • Struggle to generate expertise – a problem exacerbated by (a) the other demands on MSP time, and (b) periods of high committee turnover.
  • Struggle to gather information from the Scottish Government and public bodies. Public sector accountability is focused on ministerial accountability. Committees may struggle to secure detailed information directly from bodies such as health boards, while local authorities may ‘push back’ and assert their accountability to the public via local elections.
  • Perhaps the most relevant example is the European (and External Relations) committee, which demonstrates the potential for a Scottish Government to be openly reluctant to share information. In the past, it has withheld information, using a new variant of the convention of collective cabinet responsibility. The committee also does not seem to have the ‘scrutiny reserve’ afforded to Westminster.
  • One would expect the security services to be better equipped at withholding information, and more reluctant to share relatively sensitive information. The Scottish Parliament has not yet demonstrated a way to address this problem.

 The Scottish Parliament may have more limitations than Westminster

  • It has only 129 MSPs, which limits the pool of recruitment for committee members – a little over 100 MSPs cover 17 committees.
  • Approximately half of those MSPs may be in the party of government (with the exception of minority government, 2007-11, in which the SNP had 47 MSPs in total).
  • The ‘party whip’ is strong – and perhaps made stronger by the chance, eventually, for most MSPs of the governing party, to play a role in government.
  • There appears to be no direct equivalent in the Scottish Parliament to the idea of a career backbencher occupying a senior role in committees.

Independence could exacerbate these problems

  • The Scottish Government White Paper Scotland’s Future devotes very little time to the Scottish Parliament, and largely expresses satisfaction about its current role.[2]
  • The Scottish National Party suggests that its membership may remain at 129. Dave Thompson MSP received minimal SNP support when he proposed an increase of 70 MSPs. Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon appears to advocate the maintenance of 129 MSPs (see the Youtube video here). Of course, SNP policy may not mean Scottish policy, but no opposition party has expressed an interest in this topic.
  • If the number of MSPs remains at 129, the Scottish Parliament’s responsibilities will rise profoundly, without any guarantee that its resources will follow suit.
  • We face the prospect of an already-limited Scottish Parliament being stretched further – given a large number of extra responsibilities but not the resources to perform an effective scrutiny role.

[1] Drawn from these papers and blog posts: How Can the Scottish Parliament Be Improved as a Legislature?; What is the Role of the Scottish Parliament?; The Role of the Scottish Parliament in a Devolved or Independent Scotland; If the Vote is Yes: What Will Be the Size of the Scottish Parliament?

[2] See pages 355-6: “The Scottish Parliament. Scotland already has a modern, accessible parliament, elected on a proportional representation system. It will remain the parliament of an independent Scotland. The Scottish Parliament has set an example within the UK on how a modern legislature should operate. In line with its founding principles of power sharing, accountability, access and participation, and equal opportunity, the Parliament has successfully put into practice the principles on which it was founded: the petitions system makes the Parliament accessible and improves accountability; the legislative process gives civil society and individuals significant opportunities to participate before and during the formal Parliamentary processes parliamentary committees and, since 2008, the Scottish Cabinet take the process of government to all parts of the country – during the summer of 2013 alone, for example, the Cabinet has convened in Lerwick, Hawick, Campbeltown and Fraserburgh; participation and engagement is built into the work of government, parliament, local government and the wider public sector”.



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Public Lecture: ‘Will life go on after the Scottish Independence referendum?’

Update: the audio of the lecture is available here:

(or separate page here: Lecture plus QA Paul Cairney Inaugural Professorial Lecture or here: Lecture plus QA Paul Cairney Inaugural Professorial Lecture )

the blog posts are available here (1000 words) and here (3000 words)

and the sense of occasion is picked up here:

and here:


I will give my inaugural lecture on Wednesday 24 September 2014 at the University of Stirling. The lecture is called ‘Will life go on after the Scottish Independence referendum?’, which is as sarcastic as I felt I could get away with without putting people off. It’s a public lecture, so anyone willing to make the trip is more than welcome. I’ll be wearing ceremonial robes, but you can do smart casual or sports casual. It starts at 6.30pm, in the Pathfoot Lecture Theatre (the first building, on the left, as you enter the campus: enter and go straight ahead, then go up the stairs and listen out for the live music and cheers). It ends, I think, at 7.30pm, followed by a drinks reception. I don’t drink, so I can’t tell you if the free booze makes the trip worthwhile. My mum is making the trip from Reading, so think about that if you live in the central belt and can’t be arsed. My partner and kids are also going, so we’re going to hang around enough to answer questions and be polite, then nip away for dinner and high 5s when no-one is looking.

The official advice is that ‘If you would like to attend then please RSVP by Wednesday 17 September 2014:‘ but there is no-one there to keep non-RSVPers out and I will eat my hat if the lecture is full. In fact, you’d be doing me a favour by just turning up, wearing Homer Simpson specs and falling asleep.  

This is what I’ve said I’ll talk about:

‘Will life go on after the Scottish Independence referendum?’

The lecture discusses the future of Scotland’s political system after the independence referendum. It touches upon the referendum campaigns and the immediate impact of a yes or no vote, but focuses on the aspects of politics and policymaking that are relatively unaffected by the result, including: the presence of ‘wicked’ policy problems that all governments struggle to solve; the tendency for the public to focus on salient political issues at the expense of most government activity; and, the often-peripheral role of the MSPs we elect to the Scottish Parliament. Regardless of the vote, we will continue to focus on one small, simple, part of the political process (including elections), often ignoring the complex problems that policymakers face, and remaining unaware of the complex policy processes in which they operate. How is policy made under those circumstances – and should you pay attention?



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Why would the UK Government take a tough line with the Scottish Government after a Yes or No vote?

Update: so far, the main reaction to the Scottish No vote has been David Cameron’s plan to address the idea of ‘English Votes for English Laws’, plus some wider discussion of how to address the English Question. From what I can tell, no one has yet told politicians in Scotland to get stuffed. Instead, The Vow, coupled with Gordon Brown’s intervention, has kept quick and ‘extensive’ further devolution high on the agenda on Scotland and it remains to be seen if constitutional change for England will get the same attention.

Judging by some of the rhetoric on the Scottish independence referendum, one thing is certain: the UK Government will take a tough line with the Scottish Government. If there is a Yes vote, it will defend UK interests to the hilt. If there is a No vote, and the Scottish Government seeks further devolution, it will assert the rights of the rest of the UK. Why will this happen? Well, because the UK Government acts in the interests of the rest of the UK, and the rest of the UK – and England in particular – is waking up to Scotland’s privileged position within the Union.

At least, that’s what I’ve heard. Beyond this assertion, how can we demonstrate that the rest of the UK is ready to put pressure on the UK Government to take a tough line? I think there are three sources of relevant information, only two of which reinforce this argument.

The first is personal testimony from politicians, either directly in interview, or indirectly through the columns of journalists, including:

  • The decision by George Osborne, Ed Balls and Danny Alexander to rule out a currency union, on the basis that it is against the UK interest (Alexander also argues that it is against the Scottish interest).
  • Boris Johnson’s suggestion that there is no reason to grant the Scottish Parliament more powers in the event of a No vote.
  • Nigel Farage’s suggestion, in a BBC documentary, that a Yes vote would provoke the rest of the UK, and England in particular, to wake up and protect its interests (followed by vox pops making this claim in stronger terms).
  • Archetypal media commentary, such as Adrian Woolridge’s caricature of an English response, describing the opportunity to ‘turn off the tap’ (end subsidies for Scotland) after a Yes vote, or invite the Scots to shut up after a No vote (note that the first three paragraphs are set up to get your attention for a more subtle argument in the remainder).

2014-08-17 17.01.47

The second is quantitative survey research. For example, an IPPR press release in 2012 argues that: ‘The evidence presented here suggests the emergence of what might be called an ‘English political community’, one marked by notable concerns within England about the seeming privileges of Scotland in particular and a growing questioning of the capacity of the current UK-level political institutions to pursue and defend English interests, and one underpinned by a deepening sense of English identity. The full report by Richard Wyn Jones and colleagues suggests that a small majority of people who feel ‘English, not British’ or ‘More English than British’ believe that Scotland gets more than its ‘fair share’ (p27). It is not a majority of the English respondents as a whole – but the 44% response in 2011 is more than double the (21%) response in 2000 (see p116 of the Scottish independence chapter, by John Curtice and Rachel Ormston, in British Social Attitudes 29).

This was followed by a YouGov/ University of Cardiff survey of 3705 English adults which suggests that attitudes towards Scotland have hardened, on several measures. When asked:

  • If Scotland ‘should be able to continue to use the pound’, 53% disagreed and 23% agreed (15% neither, 9% DK).
  • If ‘Levels of public spending in Scotland should be reduced to the levels in the rest of the UK’, 56% agreed and 9% disagreed (21%, 13%).

Respondents were happy enough for the Scottish Parliament to take control over ‘the majority of taxes raised in Scotland’ and the welfare state, but not too keen to help it join international organizations.

The third is a mixture of qualitative and quantitative. In this case, the aim is to allow people to speak for themselves without a questionnaire setting the agenda. In other words, if you ask people , in a questionnaire, if Scots get more than their fair share, many will say ‘yes’ without having given it much thought. You don’t get a brilliant feel for the way in which they prioritise important issues – and you don’t know if they would have articulated this concern in the absence of someone asking them about it. The alternative is to simply raise a broad issue and ask people to say what they think. This approach has been done to great effect by Susan Condor (2010) in the journal article Devolution and national identity: the rules of English (dis)engagement, which draws on ‘1,652 conversational interview transcripts collected between 2000 and 2009’. The argument that is most striking to me is that: ‘most people remain unaware of the policy issues that excite so much interest among the political and intellectual elite’. In other words, politicians and journalists talk as if they represent the will of a population, without providing much evidence that the population knows or cares as much about the issues as they do.

The major caveat to this third argument is that the research took place before surveys started picking up a growing sense of English national identity (and before it started having some sort of impact on electoral behaviour via support for UKIP). Yet, it should still give us pause, to wonder: if Susan Condor repeated this research, would it support or undermine the assertion that there will be an English backlash to Scottish independence or further devolution?



Filed under Scottish independence, Scottish politics, UK politics and policy

Scottish Independence: Will Anything Really Change?

Some issues are territorial. Others are universal.

I like to tell people that very little will change after an event such as an election or referendum. While we focus on the exciting world of party politics, elections, campaigns and a referendum, the humdrum world of policymaking goes on, often unnoticed. Indeed, one partly causes the other: our attention to a small number of high profile people allows a large number of people to carry on, delivering public policy, out of the spotlight. Some issues receive huge amounts of attention, and policy might change if there is a problem that can be solved and the solution is not too expensive or controversial. Others receive almost no attention – yet, life goes on, and policy is often delivered in much the same way as in the past. When we elect governments, or choose a completely new kind of government, we expect ministers to solve problems for us. Yet, they can only pay attention to a tiny proportion of the things for which they are responsible. No individual, or small group of people at the heart of government, has the ability to understand or control the complex government of which it is in charge. In Scotland, regardless of a Yes or No vote, one of those key issues is about how to organise, deliver and reform public services. It demonstrates two main problems that you find in any study of government and policymaking. First, there is an inescapable trade-off between a desire to harmonise national policies and to encourage local discretion. Policymakers and policy participants understand this problem in different ways; some bemoan the ‘fragmentation’ of public services and the potential for a ‘postcode lottery’, while others identify more positive notions of flexible government, the potential for innovation, and the value of ‘community-led’ policies or individualised, ‘co-produced’, services. Second, policymakers have a limited amount of control over this trade-off. They do not simply choose a level of fragmentation. Instead, they face the same problems as any government: the ability to pay attention to only a small proportion of issues, or to a small proportion of public service activity; the tendency for problems to be processed in government ‘silos’ (by one part of government, not communicating well with others); the potential for policymakers, in different departments or levels of government, to understand and address the policy problem in very different ways; and, ‘complexity’, which suggests that policy outcomes often ‘emerge’ from local action in the absence of central control. These problems can only be addressed in a limited way by government strategies based on: the use of accountability and performance measures; the encouragement of learning and cooperation between public bodies; and, the development of a professional culture in which many people are committed to the same policy approach. In our new paper, my colleagues Emily St Denny, Siabhainn Russell and I look at how the Scottish Government addresses these ‘universal’ problems. We describe its reputation for making policy in a distinctive way; its reputation for pursuing a consultative and cooperative style when it makes and implements policy. It works with a wide range of bodies to build support for its policy aims. Its policy delivery involves a broad national strategy combined with a commitment to trust bodies such as local authorities to meet its aims. In turn, local authorities work with a wide range of bodies in the public, voluntary and private sector to produce shared aims relevant to their local areas. This approach could help address problems associated with ‘silos’, ‘ambiguity’ and local discretion, if policy is ‘co-produced’ and ‘owned’ by national and local bodies. On the other hand, the ‘Scottish Approach’ implies a decision to encourage discretion, the production of a meaningful degree of local policymaking, and perhaps even the acceptance that some policies may ‘emerge’ in the absence of central direction and traditional accountability measures. To show how complicated government is, we select problems and strategies that seem more likely to exacerbate these ‘universal’ problems more than others. We outline two policy areas, on prevention and transition, which cut across many government departments, involve many levels of government (local, Scottish, UK, and perhaps EU) and types of government (including education, social work, health and police authorities), and seem particularly difficult to define and manage. In both cases, the problem is not one of disagreement. In fact, there is a widespread commitment to both issues, and to achieve a ‘decisive shift to prevention’ in particular. Rather, the problem is often one of ambiguity – for example, people are not quite sure what prevention means in practice, when applied to different kinds of policy problem – or ‘fragmentation’, when a range of public bodies have to work together to produce more specific aims and objectives. These ‘universal’ points are important when we consider Scottish policymaking in the context of constitutional change: a shift of policymaking responsibility from the UK to Scotland may reduce one aspect of complex government – such as the link between the social security system (currently reserved to the UK) and public services – but many would still remain. In cases such as prevention, Scottish independence could have an impact on budget and policy priorities. It would not, however, solve the problem of how to define and address a cross-cutting and ambiguous problem. That problem would remain, and life would go on regardless of a Yes and No vote. The paper is here: Cairney Russell St Denny ECPR 19.8.14


Filed under public policy, Scottish independence, Scottish politics