The Scottish Independence Referendum in an International Context
Canadian Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 51 (2014)
30 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2014 Last revised: 17 Jun 2016
Date Written: March 17, 2014
There are no universally-applicable procedural standards at independence referendums. However, in comparative practice a minimum requirement has emerged for clarity of both the winning majority and referendum question. The article demonstrates that Scotland could become a state with the lowest popular support in international practice should Scots vote for independence, yet this would not compromise the legitimacy of the vote. Even the referendum question is exemplarily clear, textually. However, the possibility of a referendum on the UK’s exit from the EU complicates the matter. This article demonstrates that with independence Scotland would prima facie also exit the EU, unless negotiated otherwise. But now Scots do not know whether a vote for the UK is also a vote for the EU. Given the complexity of the EU legal order, Scots have a right to know whether, at least in the near future, the alternative to independence is the UK in or outside of the EU. If the two referendums fall too close to each other, the clarity of the independence referendum could be unduly compromised.
Keywords: Scotland, independence referendum, procedural standards, EU referendum, EU membership
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