Public Law

The Law School’s expertise in public law encompasses the major dimensions of the subject - constitutional and administrative, national and international, procedural and substantive. The School’s considerable contributions to research in public international law, environmental law and human rights are discussed separately.

Perhaps rather uniquely, the focus of much of the School’s work in public law is on government - what it does and the constraints, legal and otherwise, to which it is subject - rather than the legislature or the courts.  Daintith and Page’s highly regarded The Executive in the Constitution: Structure, Autonomy and Internal Control (OUP 1999), offered the first constitutional and legal analysis of the inner workings of executive government for many years. Based on research undertaken within the framework of the ESRC’s Whitehall programme, it demonstrated how the executive’s own mechanisms of control are no less crucial a dimension of the constitutional order than the more familiar external machinery of democratic and legal control.

A joint venture between the School and the Scottish Information Commissioner led to the establishment of the Centre for Freedom of Information whose focus is on the development, interpretation and implementation of laws which provide rights to information globally. The Centre’s current main project, which is assisted by funding from the Open Societies Foundation, concentrates on the work of information commissioners and equivalent appellate bodies worldwide. Dunion’s Freedom of Information in Scotland in Practice (DUP 2011) is the definitive work on freedom of information law in Scotland.

Much of the School’s public law research in recent years has examined the United Kingdom’s new ‘territorial’ constitution, both that aspect of the constitution which is specific to the individual devolved institutions in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland and that aspect which deals with the relationship between the devolved administrations and the wider United Kingdom and European legal orders. Page’s book on Constitutional Law for the Scottish Universities Law Institute (W Green & Son, forthcoming) aims to provide the first full account of constitutional law in Scotland since devolution. AHRC funded work led by Ross and Reid examined the implementation of EU environmental law within the devolved structure of the UK and has been referred to in the reports of three different committees of the UK and Scottish Parliaments.

The public law aspects of environmental law including the implications of multi-layered governance, accountability for environmental performance and the use of various regulatory and institutional tools figure strongly in the work of the School’s environmental lawyers. Monographs explore governance of nature conservation (Reid) and sustainable development (Ross) across the UK and recent work has also covered the distinct climate change and marine legislation at UK and Scottish levels.

Key Publications

T. Daintith and A. Page, The Executive in the Constitution: Structure, Autonomy and Internal control (OUP 1999)

K. Dunion, Freedom of Information in Scotland in Practice (DUP 2011)

C. T. Reid Nature Conservation (W.Green, 2011)

J. McLean, Searching for the State in British Legal Thought: Competing Conceptions of the Public Sphere (CUP 2012)

A. Ross Sustainable Development Law in the UK – from Rhetoric to Reality (Earthscan/Routledge, 2013)

K. Dunion ‘Freedom of Information in Scotland and the UK: Time to Notice the Difference’ in R A Chapman and M Hunt (eds), Freedom of Information: Local Government and Accountability (Ashgate 2010)

A. Page ‘A Parliament that is Different? The Law Making Process in the Scottish Parliament’ in E Sutherland et al (eds), Law Making and the Scottish Parliament: The Early Years (EUP 2011)