The Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research (ILCR) at the University of St Andrews held an event last Thursday, 18 October 2018, that discussed the political, legal as well as historical aspects of the Union and how that would be affected by recent or potential political developments, namely Brexit or Scottish independence. The event was divided into two panels.
The first panel, consisting of the “These Islands” group, saw Ali M. Ansari kick of proceedings by introducing his new book “These Islands: A Letter to Britain”. This provided a springboard for discussion, with Scottish History and 18th Century perspectives aiding the discourse that the book highlighted. The most notable messages conveyed were that Scotland should not be ashamed about the Union from a historical perspective, and that we should all be more than a little skeptical of raw enthusiasm. With a somewhat mixed reception about whether we should feel optimistic about the present and future of the Union, nevertheless, the first panel provided a good stage upon which the second panel could build.
The second part was more focused towards political matters. It was a truly amazing event, not merely due to the fact that all of the panel were very distinguished guests – Lord Salisbury, Gisela Stuart, Paul Silk, and Daniel Greenberg – but also because they provided extremely insightful opinions and arguments regarding their reflections on how the Union has evolved in a historical and political context.
As students of the MLitt in Legal and Constitutional Studies this event provided us, and other fellow students, with an astonishing opportunity to think about and discuss the future of the Union in light of the developments that have taken place of late, including technological advances, people’s disenchantment with the established political system, and Brexit. Furthermore, it also made us think of some interesting questions, for example the extent to which the established governance systems deliver to the people what they require, or the kind of impact that Brexit will have on the European Union as a whole. Consequently, by looking at some of the contending issues about the United Kingdom and to some extent the EU we were able not only to gain an insight into these debates but also try to apply to the real world the notions that we have been learning in our master’s degree. Therefore, the only thing that remains for us to say is that we truly recommend staff and fellow students to come along and participate in these events!
Alvaro Gutierrez Calero and Alasdair Wilde. MLitts in Legal and Constitutional Studies 2018-2019, University of St Andrews