Nov 19, 2021, 10:00 am11:30 am


Co-sponsored by Professor Carles Boix, Robert Garret Professor of Politics and Public Affairs, Princeton University on behalf of LISD and Professor Clara Posatí, non-attached member of the EU.
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Event Description

Questions of self-determination are ever-present within the world order created by the United Nations and, if anything, they seem to be increasingly present, creating a difficult test for the international community and its institutions. The European Union is no exception to this and several national communities claim their right to self-determination in respect to one of its Member States. So far, the European Union has painstakingly avoided any involvement in these political disputes and has supported whatever course of action the concerned Member States have had to these demands, arguably overlooking some of the democratic principles that are the basis of the Union.

Please join us for the next discussion in our series on Democratic Governance and the Question of Self-Determination with Stephen Tierney, Professor of Constitutional Theory at Edinburgh Law School, on "Referendums in Federal States: Territorial Pluralism, Self-Determination and the Challenge of Direct Democracy."

Abstract:  "Referendums are increasingly used in matters of national self-determination: recent examples include ‘independence’ referendums in Scotland and Catalonia, and the EU withdrawal referendum in the United Kingdom. My book, Constitutional Referendums: The Theory and Practice of Republican Deliberation considers the use of referendums specifically in territorial or federal systems. Referendums tend to be presented as ‘the people’ speaking. But how does this principle apply in systems with multiple governments, founded as federal systems are upon a foundational constitutional commitment to territorial and societal pluralism? The referendum can be particularly challenging within federal systems which contain strong cultural or ethnic diversity. How should the referendum as a means of constitutional change be accommodated within federal thought and federal practice, given the commitment of federalism to a carefully-crafted balance of power among the polity’s constituent territories?"

Stephen Tierney

Stephen Tierney is Professor of Constitutional Theory in the School of Law, University of Edinburgh, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He is a member of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland and Legal Adviser to the House of Lords Constitution Committee. Professor Tierney also served as editor of the UK Constitutional Law blog from 2015-20 and as constitutional adviser to the Scottish Parliament’s Referendum (Scotland) Bill Committee in 2013-14. His research interests are in UK and comparative constitutional law. He has published eight books including two monographs with Oxford University Press with a further monograph on federalism forthcoming. He has advised governments and parliaments widely on Brexit, devolution, and constitutional change.