Press Release: No surprises in UK government legal advice on Scottish independence, says Constitution Unit

11th February 2013

Commenting on the legal advice published today by the UK government, the Director of UCL’s Constitution Unit Prof Robert Hazell said:

“This legal advice comes as no surprise. We have been saying for the last 10 years that an independent Scotland would have to apply to re-join the EU and other international bodies. That should not cause Scotland too much difficulty, because Scotland easily meets the admission criteria. But in the eyes of the world the rest of the UK will be the ‘continuing state’. That is what the international law precedents suggest; and the rest of the world will want to recognise the rUK as the continuing state, for reasons of predictability and stability”.

“We reached this conclusion on the basis of 18 months’ research” Prof Hazell continued. “And because of its importance, we published that chapter of our book in draft and tested it at an expert seminar in Edinburgh. So we are very pleased that two such distinguished experts as Prof James Crawford and Prof Alan Boyle have come to the same conclusion. It is also the view of the experts who have given evidence to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on this point”.

Notes for Editors

Prof Hazell is available for interview on Monday afternoon, tel 020 7679 4977 or email

The Constitution Unit conducted an 18 month research project into the legal and constitutional path which Scotland would need to follow to achieve independence. The conclusions were published in J Murkens and P Jones: Scottish Independence – A Practical Guide (Edinburgh University Press, 2002).

As part of that project the Unit held a seminar in Edinburgh with a group of experts in European and international law. The experts supported the Unit’s conclusion that an independent Scotland would have to apply to re-join the EU and other international bodies.

Prof Hazell and Dr Jo Murkens recently gave evidence on this point to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee’s inquiry into the Foreign Policy Implications of a separate Scotland. Their evidence was given on 16 October, and can be seen at

Viedo: Redesigning Press Regulation: Lessons From Overseas

The outcome of the Leveson Inquiry will require a new constitutional design for press regulation: responsive to the fall-out from phone-hacking; able to secure both freedom of expression and rights to privacy; and flexible enough to accommodate traditional and emerging journalism. While there is no blueprint from overseas there are instructive lessons from international experiences in relation to such core issues as independence, interplay with statute, funding, governance, core purposes and sanctions.

Lara Fielden, Visiting Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in Oxford, will discuss the lessons from a range of countries that share common interests in a free press and a tradition of press councils. She will draw on her report Regulating the Press: A Comparative Study of International Press Councils commissioned by the Reuters Institute to inform the Leveson Inquiry and wider debate on press reform in the UK. Lara is a former BBC journalist and Ofcom regulator, and author of Regulating for Trust in Journalism which sets out ideas on a new cross-platform settlement for standards regulation in the age of blended media.

Regulating the Press: A comparative study of international press councils

In searching for a solution to the problem of press regulation, the Leveson Inquiry is going to have to look at the comparative constitutional design of Press Councils.  A new report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism contains a detailed study of six Press Councils, in Sweden, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Ireland and Australia.  It looks at their origins, budgets and funding, governance structures, membership and independence, from the industry and from the state.  In his questioning Lord Justice Leveson has already expressed interest in the Irish model, which challenges the long held view in the British press that statutory regulation inevitably involves a less independent Press Council.

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