Academic programme

Plenary Lecture

Welcoming address: Ms Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister of Scotland

Keynote lecture: Prof. Iain McLean (University of Oxford)

“Parliaments in Fiscal Federalism: Spending too Much, Taxing too Little?”

The imminence of the Scottish independence referendum prompts some general reflections on subordinate parliaments and fiscal federalism. Typically, the power to tax lies with the upper tier of government (because it finds it easier to collect taxes), while much of the duty to spend, or pleasure of spending, lies with the lower tier of government, which is closer to the people and their needs. But this sets up a classic moral hazard: under fiscal federalism, rational action by both orders of government leads their parliaments, in aggregate, to spend too much and tax too little. There are typically unproductive games between the orders of government as each seeks to blame the other. Some possible ways out of this dilemma are explored.

Roundtable 1: Democracy and its Discontents

Representation is the institutional cornerstone of most contemporary understandings of democratic practice. At the same time, traditional forms of political representation have faced numerous threats in recent years in connection with the decline of mass parties, rising political disaffection, policy constraints posed by globalisation and recent economic strains. This roundtable will consider current issues in representation at national and European levels, including aspects of representation related to institutional design, political accountability and public engagement with politics. Roundtable participants will be invited to reflect on the causes of challenges to representation and to evaluate possible measures that might be employed to address these challenges.

Chair: Prof. Sarah Birch (University of Glasgow)


  • Prof. Dirk Berg-Schlosser (University of Marburg)
  • Dr. Rosie Campbell (University of London, Birkbeck)
  • Prof. Leonardo Morlino (LUISSUniversity, Rome)

Roundtable 2: Contested Human Rights

Human rights claims have become ubiquitous in 21st century international society. International actors’ reputations and notions of what it means to be democratic are more closely tied to human rights performance than at any other point in history. Despite the greater international prominence and importance of rights norms, such claims remain contested across different societies and within the international community more broadly. For example, while rhetorical commitment to human rights has grown dramatically since the 1980s, many scholars question the extent to which states and other actors comply with rights norms by translating words into deeds. Further as human rights principles have gained legitimacy over time, they have been applied to an ever greater number of issues, often generating controversy over what a proper human rights claim entails.  This roundtable examines the contested nature of the contemporary international human rights regime by exploring controversies surrounding the creation of new rights claims such as lesbian and gay rights and the environment as well as older but still relevant debates about compliance with human rights principles and the legitimacy of economic rights. At the heart of these controversies remains a fundamental debate about how truly universal rights claims are and the extent to which such universalizing claims can be made to stretch beyond the western traditions that gave rise to them.

Chair: Dr. Kelly Kollman (University of Glasgow)


  • Prof. John Dryzek (Australian National University)
  • Prof. Jan Willem Duyvendak (University of Amsterdam)
  • Prof. Todd Landman (University of Essex)

Special Panel: The Significance and Implications of the Scottish Independence Referendum

On 18 September 2014 Scotland will undertake an historic vote to determine whether it wishes to remain within the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland. The significance of this event for the future of the UK cannot be understated. Whether the Scots return a ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ vote, the announcement of the result will only be the beginning of an extended series of negotiations.

If Scotland votes to leave the UK, the negotiations obviously involve a complex set of issues about currency, debt, jurisdiction, security, resources, citizenship, and many others. If Scotland decides to remain within the UK, the subsequent negotiations are only less complicated in that the relationship is not formally severed; however both sides of the debate, the “Yes Campaign” and the “Better Together Campaign”, have signalled that in the event of a No vote, the very concept of devolution will have to be rethought, with significantly expanded powers being transferred to the Scottish Parliament.

Beyond the UK, it would also be difficult to minimize the implications of the Scottish independence referendum for the rest of Europe. The Scottish case has quickly become a focal point for scholars, politicians and activists interested in regional devolution and national independence within the European Union. European politicians have weighed in on the Scottish independence debate with a clear set of specific priorities related to their own national and perceived international interests.

This panel will explore many of major the issues surrounding the Scottish independence question and its international significance. Five leading scholars in the analysis of Scottish and European devolution, institutions, public opinion and public policy will offer brief presentations in their area of expertise, though the majority of the roundtable will focus on addressing questions raised by the ECPR community of scholars in a Q&A format.

Chair: Prof. Christopher Carman (University of Glasgow)


  • Prof. Margaret Arnott (University of the West of Scotland)
  • Prof. John Curtice (University of Strathclyde)
  • Prof. Charlie Jeffery (University of Edinburgh)
  • Prof. Michael Keating (University of Aberdeen)