Constitutional law (Scotland)
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The Constitutional Framework of Scotland
A constitution is generaly considered to be a fundamental part of a free democratic society governed "by the people". A constitution is a document which underpins the rights of citizens, the powers of the government and the general make-up of the political system as well as the relationships of the various governing institutions of that society. In any country which has one, it can be relied upon by the people to ensure that the government in acting does not go beyond its prescribed powers as set out in the constitution. This means it cannot pass legislation which is considered a violation of any rights under the articles. If it does so, acting upon this legislation will be considered illegal and the judiciary can step in to stop this. A good example of a modern constitution is the American constitution.
Unusually, the United Kingdom has no formal constitution. Scotland being a constituent country of the United Kingdom, and therefore primarily governed by the UK constitution, therefore has none. This is not to say that no "constitution" exists. However, There is no constitution in the formal single document sense, such as there is for most democratic societies - there is no easily read and understood list of citizens rights and governmental restrictions.
To understand the constitutional make up of the United Kingdom, and therefore of Scotland, what must be looked at is a series of events which have shaped the structure of the UK significantly and have brought with it legal documents which underpin the law of the country. There are many documents which academics would consider to be "constitutional" in nature, and this is very much debateable. What academics would agree on, though, is that the following three events are of great constitutional significance:
- The Act of Union 1707, which created the United Kingdom as we know it today
- The accession of the United Kingdom to the European Union in 1973
- The Scotland Act 1998, creating the Scottish Parliament and launching devolution
These three documents, along with many other events and pieces of legislation, can offer an insight into the fundemental rights of the citizen,the relationships of the institutions of the UK, and the powers of government. As well as this, case law decided by the judiciary must be examined to further outline the modern constitution of Scotland and give insight into the governing principles of the country.R
Also to be remembered are the powers of the monarch which are considerable in theory however in practice they are exercised by senior members of the government. Known as convention this practice can lead to rather strange contradictions in constitutional law. One leading example is that the HM the Queen swore an oath at her coronation uphold the law and administer justice yet if she were to exercise those powers many politicians claim this would lead to a constitutional crisis as it would be "undemocratic" even though what she was doing would be perfectly legal.
- Find the notion in the UK legal internet