With a referendum on Scottish Independence due to be held in 2014, the ESRC has appointed seven one-year senior fellowships with overall funding of £1.3 million. The Fellows will also act as champions for the social sciences, promoting the importance of social science research in addressing current and future issues in relation to possible Scottish independence.
See press release: Fellows to look at the future of the UK and Scotland
'The Scottish Question': implications for the rest of the UK and Scottish local governance
Professor James Mitchell, University of Edinburgh
The implications of Scotland's constitutional future for the rest of the UK have tended, at best, to focus on a narrow band of issues, such as the West Lothian Question and the Barnett formula - and these have tended to be discussed in simplistic terms. There is a need to broaden out discussion and reach out to other parts of the UK, to inform about the wider issues that are involved. There is also a growing awareness that the outcome of the referendum in Scotland and any subsequent developments will have significant implications for the functioning of public institutions in Scotland - especially at local level.
The aim of this fellowship will be to engage with policymakers in the rest of the UK and at local level in Scotland on these matters, as well as developing engagement with a new group of voters: the 16- and 17-year-olds in Scotland.
Business decision-making in conditions of constitutional and political uncertainty in the UK and Scotland
Professor Brad MacKay, University of Edinburgh Business School
The Scottish independence debate and referendum raises questions about how conditions of constitutional and political uncertainty are influencing business decision-making across diverse industry sectors in Scotland. Uncertainties around issues such as fiscal and monetary policies, currency, regulation of industries, international economic and political agreements, or future participation in the European Union have implications for businesses operating in Scotland, and influence decisions on whether to invest, re-invest, expand, withdraw, locate or relocate business activity.
The aim of the project is to explore business decision-making in conditions of constitutional and political uncertainty, and to develop alternative scenarios around the different possible outcomes from the Scottish independence vote - in order to clarify what uncertainties are of most concern to business leaders, and the decisions that might result from them.
Currency and fiscal policy options for an independent Scotland
Dr Angus Armstrong, National Institute of Economic and Social Research
The Scottish independence debate is fast becoming centred on economic issues, with a fundamental question being which currency Scotland will use if voters choose independence. The objective of this fellowship is to stimulate an open and informed debate on the coherence of alternative currency and fiscal arrangements for Scotland. This issue is at the heart of whether full or further devolution will be successful. The core of the fellowship involves building the first ever large-scale global econometric model of Scotland.
Higher education in Scotland, the devolution settlement and the referendum on independence
Professor Sheila Riddell, University of Edinburgh
The future of higher education lies at the heart of the debate on Scottish independence, and has a strong bearing on individual life chances, social mobility and issues of social justice and social citizenship. This fellowship will inform public debate in the run-up to the referendum by exploring how administrative and parliamentary devolution affects higher education in Scotland, investigating the impact of devolution on cross-border student flows, and illuminating the implications of devolution or independence for present and future higher education policy.
Public attitudes and Scotland's independence referendum
Professor John Curtice, National Centre for Social Research
This fellowship is focused on public opinion towards Scotland's constitutional future, and will address three key questions:
Are people's attitudes towards independence simply a reflection of their sense of national identity, or are they are also shaped by what they think the consequences of independence would be?
Will people vote for or against independence simply based on this issue, or will they be influenced by their attitudes towards the UK government or the various political parties?
Has introducing devolution inevitably put Scotland on a path towards independence, or can a stable basis be found for governing Scotland within the framework of the United Kingdom?
The fellowship will result in a book-length study of these questions, a website providing information and commentary on all key survey readings of public attitudes towards how Scotland should be governed, and a programme of seminars and research briefings.
- AUDIO: Listen to Professor John Curtice's outline of the research
- Professor Curtice's blog What Scotland Thinks
Constitutional futures and models of policy-making
Professor Michael Keating, University of Aberdeen
A central question arising from the referendum on Scottish independence is: what scope would Scotland have to fashion its own social and economic settlement under different constitutional scenarios - given the legal, institutional and economic constraints it would face? This fellowship will combine constitutional analysis with political economy and the study of public policy to compare Scotland with other small jurisdictions.
Between autonomy and interdependence: Scottish independence and intergovernmental co-ordination
Dr Nicola McEwen, University of Edinburgh
Supporters of Scottish independence have been keen to emphasize that an independent Scotland would maintain close ties to the other nations of the British Isles after independence, where governments would work together in shared institutions and some common services could still be delivered north and south of the border.
This research explores and evaluates these assumptions, and the impact such associations would have for government and governing. The research will analyse the feasibility of shared services, infrastructures and institutions, the governing arrangements necessary for co-ordinating them, and the likely power dynamics between governments after independence. A primary goal is to inform political, policy and public debates on the opportunities and constraints of Scottish independence.
The referendum on Scottish independence: a democratic audit
Professor Stephen Tierney, University of Edinburgh
There are significant gaps in the information available to policymakers and citizens at this crucial constitutional moment for Scotland, and the fellowship will address this by providing policymakers, civil society and citizens with clear and accessible explanations of what independence would mean for the ways in which they are governed.
The two-part project will provide a detailed analysis of the Scottish Government's proposal for independence, as well as a democratic audit of the referendum process - making recommendations for how best to engage citizens.
Fiscal aspects of constitutional change
Professor David Bell, University of Stirling
Beliefs about how the Scottish economy may perform after independence will be critical to the outcome of the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence. Aside from its effect on income, another major concern for voters will be whether an independent Scottish economy will be able or wish to support the level of public services they currently enjoy. Taxpayers will want to know how taxes may change to pay for public services after independence.
This fellowship will produce original research looking at fiscal aspects of the constitutional change debate in the UK. It will encompass both taxes and spending, and will offer insights into questions such as: How would public services be funded in an independent Scotland? Would current levels of services – and the taxation that funds them – be similar, or vary up or down?