Scottish Politics module (PO41013)

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Module code


Module Aims

The aims of this module are: 

  • To develop and deepen knowledge of Scottish Politics: Scottish political thought, Scottish political institutions, and Scottish constitutional politics.
  • To provide students with a foundation in Scottish political history and develop an understanding of Scotland’s place in the global development of political thought.
  • To equip students to engage critically and constructively with current theoretical and public debates surrounding the political institutions and governance of Scotland.
  • To enable students to understand the Scottish political system comparatively, in relation to other similar jurisdictions around the world.

Module Details

Scotland is a jurisdiction with its own political system and its own institutions, operating in a context of multi-level governance that is currently being challenged from two directions: from the independence movement and from Brexit. Scottish politics has become orientated around a constitutional debate on Scotland’s constitution future, but often this is poorly grounded in considerations of Scotland’s constitutional past and present. This module helps students to base their analysis of Scottish politics in a deeper appreciation of Scotland’s political history and political thought, as well as in a comparative understanding of Scotland’s current institution. In so doing, it seeks to help students to be more grounded and better-informed participants in Scotland’s political process. At the same time, it seeks to stretch them intellectually, broadening their horizons both of time (through its historical material) and space (through its comparative study of other currently non-independent jurisdictions).

Teaching sessions will cover:

  1. Wars of Independence & Declaration of Arbroath
  2. Institutions of the Kingdom: Crown, Parliament, Courts, Burghs
  3. Church, State and School in Scottish history.
  4. Scottish Political Thought: Reformation. Samuel Rutherford (Lex, Rex); George Buchanan (De Jure Regni Apud Scotos); Solemn League and Covenant; Claim of Right Act.
  5. Scottish Political Thought: Enlightenment. Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun (Speeches, 1703). David Hume (Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth). Adam Ferguson (Essay on the History of Civil Society).
  6. Scotland in the British ‘Union-State’ and the British ‘Imperial State’.
  7. The road to Devolution: Kilbrandon, 1979 referendum, Constitutional Convention, the Claim of Right, 1997 referendum and the Scotland Act.
  8. Devolved institutions in Scotland: Scottish Parliament, Scottish Government, Judiciary in Scotland, local Government – main issues and controversies; have they lived up to expectations?
  9. Devolution in Comparative context: Federalism and Devolution – c.f. Canadian provinces, Indian states, Gibraltar, Tobago, Nevis etc.
  10. Constitutional Thought of the Scottish Independence Movement
  11. Scotland torn between two Unions: Is Scotland a European nation? Has Brexit made Scottish independence impossible or inevitable?


This module consists of 11 lectures and 11 seminars. Seminars will take a variety of formats: discursive questions, debates, interactive exercises.


The assessed components on this module are two 2500 word essays, both weighted at 50%.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

  • Knowledge and understanding of the leading thinkers, texts and ideas that have contributed to Scottish political thought and Scottish institutions.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the Scottish political system as it has developed over time and as how it now operates.
  • Awareness of Scotland’s comparative position in a world where de jure non-sovereign partially autonomous jurisdictions are common.


  • The ability to engage in discussions on Scottish politics, the politics of constitutional change, and questions of constitutional reform, in an informed and credible way.
  • Critical and reflexive thinking skill development in relation to complex, contested topics.
  • Effective communication of contending viewpoints on Scottish political thought, institutions, and the state of Scottish politics today.

Indicative Reading

Bulmer, W. E. (2016) Constituting Scotland: The Scottish National Movement and the Westminster Model  (Edinburgh University Press).

Lynch, P. (2001) Scottish Government and Politics: An Introduction(Edinburgh University Press)

Mason, R. A. (1983) Kingship and commonweal: political thought and ideology in Reformation Scotland (Unpublished PhD thesis; Edinburgh Research Archive).

Mason, R. A. (1994) Knox: On Rebellion (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought; Cambridge University Press).

Mitchell, J. and Hassan, G. (eds) (2016) Scottish National Party Leaders(Biteback Publishing)


This module is available on following courses: