Conversations on the Political Economy of Constitutional Change in Scotland

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Social and Political Science


This project will deliver a series of high-level 'conversations' involving social scientists, businesspeople and policymakers in Scotland. The aim is to foster knowledge exchange that uses social science research to inform business and policymaker views in policy debates on constitutional change in Scotland. The focus is on the political economy of constitutional change: the ways in which alternative constitutional choices may impact on economic policy and performance. This knowledge exchange activity will be designed by a liaison group of academics, businesspeople and policymakers to produce and evidence base, and make possible evidence-based analysis of the economic dimensions of constitutional change in the run-up to the constitutional referendum planned by Scotland's SNP government. We propose dispassionate and non-partisan evidence and analysis that brings together Scotland-specific and UK-wide considerations on the political economy of constitutional change.

The evidence and analysis will be presented in four 'conversations' that bridge different sectors and bring social science research to the benefit both of the Scottish policy community (where knowledge exchange links are already strong) and the business community (where academic-business links are weaker). A liaison group of academics, businesspeople and policy makers convened by the Academy of Government at the University of Edinburgh and the business-facing David Hume Institute will identify sources of evidence, commission analysis, identify key interlocutors across the three sectors to engage in the conversations, and disseminate the content and conclusions of the conversations through channels targeted to distinct business, policy and academic audiences.

Planned Impact

We propose a series of conversations and associated dissemination activities that will harness social science research on the political economy of constitutional change in a 'trialogue' with key actors in the business and policy communities in Scotland as a means of informing constitutional debate in the anticipation of the constitutional referendum the current Scottish government plans.

Who might benefit?
Alongside the academic beneficiaries noted elsewhere in this form, we expect representatvies of the business community and policy community in Scotland (and, to an extent their equivalents UK-wide) to benefit from an activity that focuses on improving understanding of the potential impacts on economic policy and the Scottish public sector of different options of constitutional reform. We anticipate that business beneficiaries will include representatives of economic analysis and public affairs departments of major businesses, and their equivalents in business membership organisations including CBI Scotland, the Institute of Directors, Scottish Financial Enterprise, Chambers of Commerce, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry and near-industry think tanks such as Reform Scotland. Beneficiaries in the policy sector will include officials and ministers in the Scottish Government, officials and Members of the Scottish Parliament (notably those in key committees such as Finance and Local Government, whose remit connects directly with the substance of this series of conversations), along with official and elected representatives of local government, public agencies, and voluntary sector organisations. The series of conversations and their outputs will also be relevant to Scottish (and to an extent UK) media outlets with an interest in Scottish constitutional debate.

How might they benefit?
Scottish constitutional debate, though vigorous, is evidence-light. It focuses more on polarised and partisan positions than generation and dispassionate consideration of relevant evidence. Now that a constitutional referendum is planned during the course of the current Scottish Parliament, there is a clear need for a more robust, evidence-based analysis of constitutional options and their potential impacts on Scotland's political economy. The series of conversations is intended to generate and sythesise relevant evidence accessibly so that it can inform business and policy debate, and support the the role of business opinion formers in building views across the business community and in shaping policy debate.

How will the legacy be managed?
Each conversation will be the product of a co-production approach linking academics, businesspeople and policy makers in defining relevant issues, identifying appropriate sources of evidence, commissioning authors and panellists, identifying high impact audiences, and delivering effective dissemination tailored to different audiences. As well as shaping debate around key political economy issues the Academy of Government and the David Hume Institute intend to use this experiece of co-production to lay the foundations (and funding opportunities) for further-reaching, triangular cooperation between social science, business and policy so that it can be deployed to inform other pressing policy issues in the coming years.


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