Evidence and advice from the ESRC Centre on Constitutional Change shaped the development of devolution legislation and enhanced the scrutiny of parliaments in Scotland and the UK.

Impacts

  • Researchers from the ESRC Centre on Constitutional Change (CCC) enhanced the Scottish and UK Parliaments’ scrutiny of devolution proposals with guidance, advice and in-depth briefings. Centre researchers supported improvements in devolution legislation and the fiscal framework by shaping committee reports and recommendations for Parliament.
  • CCC research fellows gave key evidence to several committees in the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales – including the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, House of Lords Constitution Committee, the Scottish Parliament Devolution and Finance committees, and the National Assembly for Wales Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee.
  • Expert advice from CCC helped in devising and negotiating a Written Agreement on intergovernmental relations between the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government. The CCC input was seen as ‘integral to the process of drafting and negotiating’ the agreement, according to a senior member of parliament.
  • CCC research was also a major influence on the House of Lords Constitution Committee's report on intergovernmental relations (IGR), directly informing their recommendations on the form and practice within the UK.
  • The Lords Constitution Committee’s report The Union and Devolution contained numerous references to CCC research, with direct links between their cited evidence and the Committee's recommendations on the development and structure of the union.
  • The Commons Scottish Affairs Committee cited CCC research evidence 14 times in its report Revising Scotland's Fiscal Framework. The Committee's recommendations were clearly influenced by research evidence on block grant adjustment and the implications of tax devolution for economic forecasting and risk exposure.

"The CCC and Professor Nicola McEwen's work has been of great benefit to the Scottish Parliament, providing access to the latest research, expertise and analysis for formal evidence-gathering and informal briefing. In particular, Nicola's work on intergovernmental relations has ensured that the Parliament gives this issue a high priority, resulting in the Scottish Government and Parliament jointly agreeing a Written Agreement on IGR, a model now being considered by other legislatures.” (Stephen Imrie, Clerk Team Leader, Scottish Parliament)

About the research

Following referendums on Scottish independence referendum and withdrawal from the European Union, the UK is experiencing constitutional uncertainty and change. The ESRC Centre on Constitutional Change (CCC) team, made up of senior academics from several universities, has been helping politicians, policymakers, government officials and parliamentary clerks to understand the constitutional options that are available.

Through appointments as advisers and expert witnesses, policy briefing papers, face-to-face meetings, blogs, media appearances and participation in training programmes, the CCC team has helped develop the knowledge and capacity of MSPs, MPs, Lords and government officials in the constitutional challenges that they face.

“The Centre on Constitutional Change investment has given us an opportunity to carry out research into the implications of independence and of constitutional change short of independence, and engage in a dialogue with a wide range of audiences,” says Professor Nicola McEwen, Associate Director of the CCC. “It has been a privilege to inform and shape constitutional processes as they unfold.”

Conducting analysis in 'real time' has been a challenge for the team, as they had to anticipate implications in the light of limited evidence. The team needed to adapt quickly to policy developments with substantive, but succinct and user-friendly, analyses to suit a variety of audiences, while retaining a 'big picture' academic perspective on the development of devolution and the UK state.