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Access_open ‘Should the People Decide?’ Referendums in a Post-Sovereign Age, the Scottish and Catalonian Cases

Tijdschrift Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy, Aflevering 2 2016
Trefwoorden sub-state nationalism, referendums, sovereignty, deliberative democracy, Scottish referendum
Auteurs Stephen Tierney
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This article uses the rise of referendum democracy to highlight the tenacity of modern nationalism in Western Europe. The proliferation of direct democracy around the world raises important questions about the health of representative democracy. The paper offers a theoretical re-evaluation of the role of the referendum, using the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence to challenge some of the traditional democratic criticisms of popular democracy. The final part of the paper addresses the specific application of referendums in the context of sub-state nationalism, addressing what might be called `the demos question'. This question was addressed by the Supreme Court in Canada in the Quebec Secession Reference but has also been brought to the fore by the Scottish reference and the unresolved issue of self-determination in Catalonia.


Stephen Tierney
Stephen Tierney is Professor of Constitutional Theory at the University of Edinburgh and Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law.

    The article considers the role of the liberal public-private divide in protecting religious minorities against national-majoritarian assault. It links the defence of the public-private divide to liberal neutrality and argues that it rests on two distinct propositions: that the distinction between the ’public sphere’ and the ’private sphere’ is a meaningful way to cognize and structure modern pluralistic societies; and that there is a meaningful way to distinguish what is or ought to be ‘public’ from what is or ought to be ‘private.’ While the latter proposition cannot be defended on grounds of liberal neutrality, the former proposition provides the institutional framework for conducting liberal politics by enabling the negotiation of the public and the private between national majorities and religious minorities as members of the same political community.


Daniel Augenstein
Daniel Augenstein is Associate Professor at the Department of European and International Public Law at Tilburg University.
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