Constitutional Constraints on the International Activities of Non-Central Governments: Scotland and Québec Compared

By Irvine, J. A.; Nossal, Kim Richard | British Journal of Canadian Studies, September 2005 | Go to article overview

Constitutional Constraints on the International Activities of Non-Central Governments: Scotland and Québec Compared


Irvine, J. A., Nossal, Kim Richard, British Journal of Canadian Studies


DOES THE CONSTITUTIONAL REGIME established to govern relations between different levels of government in a political community predict whether the non-central governments1 in that polity will be active international actors? Most students of the international activities of non-central governments point to the importance of the structural constraints imposed by constitutional regimes. However, there is also a widespread recognition that whether a non-central government will be active beyond the borders of the sovereign state of which it is a part will largely depend on how the constitutional regime is carried out in practice (Hocking 1986; Nossal 1996).

While this is perhaps an obvious conclusion, it has considerable implications for how we interpret the constitutional regime put into place to govern the international activities of the devolved administration in Scotland that came into being on 1 July 1999. For it is clear that those who designed the regime for the system of devolution in Britain anticipated that the new government for Scotland - the Scottish Executive - would be active internationally. While the Scotland Act 1998 is unambiguous that international relations are 'reserved matters,' the various agreements between the central government in London - or, to use the language of the agreements, the UK Government - and the devolved administrations explicitly acknowledge that the new administrations were likely to be active beyond Britain's borders. At the same time, however, the legal/constitutional regime established to govern the international relations of the new devolved administration at Holyrood gives the central government what can be read as considerable power to constrain Scotland's international profile, leading some to wonder what kind of international actor the Scottish Executive will actually be.

The purpose of this article is to describe and analyse the legal/constitutional regime created to frame the international activities of the new Scottish government - the Scotland Act 1998, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the UK government and the devolved administrations, and the separate agreements, or 'concordats,' on relations with the European Union and on international relations that form part of the MoU. As we will show, that legal regime tightly constrains the autonomy of the Scottish government in international affairs. However, by comparing Scotland with other non-central governments, particularly the international activities of the province of Québec, we will argue that the clear limitations imposed by the devolution legislation, the MoU, and the concordats need not necessarily inhibit the international activities of this new actor in world politics.

The regime for Scotland's international activity

At a formal level, the legal-constitutional regime for the international activity of the Scottish Executive is ruggedly minimalist, giving overwhelming power and authority to the central government in London. This is in keeping with the general approach of the Scotland Act 1998 itself. This key piece of legislation makes clear that while the Labour government of Tony Blair might have wanted to 'modernise the British constitution', as the 1997 White Paper put it (United Kingdom 1997: 12), the intention was never to create anything close to a federal system, where governments of the various component parts of the polity enjoy a high degree of autonomy vis-à-vis a central authority. Indeed, the 'central authority' in the new British system is highly ambiguous, since there is no devolved administration for 'England,' and as a result the 'central' government in London is de facto the government both of England and of the United Kingdom.2 And under devolution, the central government retains, at least in law, all the cards. In the unambiguous words of the government's 1997 proposals, 'The UK Parliament is and will remain sovereign in all matters . . . Westminster will be choosing to exercise that sovereignty by devolving legislative powers to a Scottish parliament without in any way diminishing its own powers' (United Kingdom 1997: 12). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Constitutional Constraints on the International Activities of Non-Central Governments: Scotland and Québec Compared
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.