Dr Neal, AW

These six one-day seminars brought together policymakers, politicians, practitioners and academics to explore the implications of constitutional change for security governance in Scotland and the rest of the UK (RUK). Our point of departure was that while important work was underway on the implications of Scottish independence for the ‘reserved matters’ of foreign affairs and defence (Chalmers, Foreign Affairs Committee), security is an increasingly expansive multi-level governance issue. This is evidenced by the 2010 National Security Strategy (NSS) of the UK which lists the following non-traditional ‘priority risks’ (at different levels or ‘tiers’): terrorism, cyber attacks, major accidents and natural hazards, pandemics, organised crime, disruption to communications, illegal immigration, and energy and trade disruption. This means that many government departments and agencies are now involved in security governance (the CONTEST strategy lists 29), including those in the devolved administration of Scotland. For example, civil contingency planning is now a function of devolved and local government across the UK. The EU also plays a complex and expanding role in internal and external security governance (Bigo, et al.). Corresponding to this proliferation of insecurities, security oversight arrangements in Westminster now extend to at least six different parliamentary committees, occasionally more. This raised questions about the adequacy of security oversight arrangements in Scotland, with or without constitutional change.

The seminar series explored the implications of Scottish independence and constitutional change for security governance in Scotland and the UK. It brought together speakers for research and knowledge exchange from the intelligence and security community, UK Government departments with security competences, parliamentary committees providing security oversight, EU institutions, Scottish Civil and Parliamentary Services, Scottish Government, political parties, local government and other bodies such as the forthcoming single integrated Police Service of Scotland. A team of academic security and constitutional experts facilitated the seminars and provided independent intellectual input and synthesis, supplemented by invited speakers from the UK and comparative European countries.

The seminars span the referendum date, producing independent research evidence to inform policymaking and public debate in advance of the vote and in response to the outcome. Is the threat environment the same for Scotland as the RUK? What security governance arrangements would an independent Scotland seek to make? Would it create its own security agencies to mirror those of the RUK? What would be the resource and capacity implications? How independent could Scottish security agencies really be, given the multi-level nature of security governance? Alternatively, what is the feasibility of sharing security competences between Scotland and the RUK? What would be the implications for democratic oversight, privacy, and human rights? What oversight capacity would the Scottish parliament want and need? What can we learn from the experience of security governance in Westminster and comparable countries?

Four seminars fell before the autumn 2014 referendum and two after, covering: 1) Assessing the governance of security in the UK and Scotland under current arrangements; 2) The threat environment of the UK and Scotland in the context of the UK National Security Strategy; 3) The foreign policy and comparative aspects of security governance for the UK, Scotland and its neighbours; 4) Current and prospective accountability and oversight arrangements in the UK and Scotland; 5) The security governance implications of the referendum outcome: independence or interdependence?; 6) Lessons from the seminar series for understanding security governance.

If you would like more information about this case study, please contact:

Dr Andrew Neal
Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations
Politics and International Relations
School of Social and Political Science
University of Edinburgh
4.22 Chrystal Macmillan Building
15a George Square
Edinburgh, UK

+44 (0)131 650 4236