British Journal of Canadian Studies

Constitutional constraints on the international activities of non-central governments: Scotland and Québec compared

British Journal of Canadian Studies (2005), 18, (2), 340–357.

Abstract

340 british journal of canadian studies J.A. (Sandy) Irvine and Kim Richard Nossal Constitutional constraints on the international activities of non-central governments: Scotland and Québec compared D oes the constitutional regime established to govern relations between different levels of government in a political community predict whether the non-central governments1 in that polity will be active international actors? Most students of the international ac­tivities of non-central governments point to the importance of the structural constraints imposed by constitutional regimes. However, there is also a widespread recognition that whether a non-central government will be active be­yond the borders of the sovereign state of which it is a part will largely depend on how the constitutional regime is carried out in practice (Hocking 1986; Nossal 1996). While this is perhaps an obvious conclu­sion, it has considerable implications for how we interpret the constitutional regime put into place to govern the international activities of the devolved administration in Scotland that came into being on 1 July 1999. For it is clear that those who designed the regime for the system of devolution in Britain antici­pated that the new government for Scot­land – the Scottish Executive��������� – ������ would be ac­tive internationally. While the Scotland Act 1998 is unambiguous that international rela­tions are ‘reserved matters,’ the various agreements between the central government in London������������������������������ – ��������������������������� or, to use the language of the agreements, the UK Government������������������������������������ – ��������������������������������� and the devolved administrations explicitly acknowledge that the new administrations were likely to be active beyond Britain’s borders. At the same time, however, the legal/constitutional regime established to govern the international relations of the new devolved administration at Holyrood gives the central government what can be read as considerable power to constrain Scotland’s international profile, leading some to wonder what kind of interna­tional actor the Scottish Executive will actu­ally be. The purpose of this article is to describe and analyse the legal/ constitutional regime created to frame the international activities of the new Scottish government�������������������������������������������� – ����������������������������������������� the Scotland Act 1998, the Memorandum of Understand­ing (MoU) between the UK government and the devolved administrations, and the separate agreements, or ‘concordats,’ on relations with the European Union and on interna­tional relations that form part

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Author details

Irvine, J.A. (Sandy)

Nossal, Kim Richard