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Scottish Politics in Context

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

This course aims to contextualise recent developments in Scottish politics by looking at political history, actors, and institutions. By situating Scottish politics within a wider framework of study, students will be better able to engage in debate in contemporary Scottish politics. We will also address developments in the field, building on recent electoral events such as the Brexit referendum, to offer students the space for critical analysis of the defining aspects of Scottish politics.

Please note, this course includes a visit to the Scottish Parliament.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No prior knowledge required.

Content of Course

Day 1

1. Introduction to Scotland. What do we mean when we talk about Scottish politics? Historical perspectives, early political thought, ideas about state and society, ideas about state and nationhood, and the devolution process will be analysed to help to shed some light on modern Scottish politics.

2. Scotland and Devolution: Parliament and Government. To what extent were early visions of Scottish devolution actualised? How was the Parliament designed and how has it developed? What is the role of the Scottish Government in the life of Scotland? Students will walk to the Scottish Parliament and take part in a guided tour.

3. Elections in Scotland since Devolution. This section will look at the key elections in Scotland to try to understand the outcomes for Scottish political life.The patterns of voting behaviour will be discussed in an attempt to understand the development of Scotland since devolution.

Day 2

4. Scottish Nationalism and Scottish Identity. How can we conceptualise Scottish nationalism and what is its impact on everyday Scottish life? What are the markers of Scottish identity and how does this influence perception of politics and political behaviour?

5. Multi-level Politics. Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the wider world helps us to understand Scotland’s contemporary politics. Intergovernmental relations, cross-border interaction, and comparative analysis are important elements in the understanding of Scottish politics and policy development.

Day 3

6. Brexit and Scotland. The Brexit vote has created a new political direction for the United Kingdom. The impact on Scotland has yet to be fully understood, however there are patterns of electoral behaviour, institutional behaviour, and party behaviour which allow us to understand the way in which Brexit has started to shape the nature of Scottish politics.

7. The Future of Scotland. The developments in Scottish politics following the 2014 independence referendum have been rapid, surprising, and in certain instances, contradictory. But, the debate over Scotland’s future remains fluid and highly contested with competing models and potential outcomes. This section helps to analyse potential futures for Scotland and allows students to debate the future of Scottish politics.

Teaching method(s)

Lecture and tutor-led discussion.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Think critically about contemporary Scottish politics;

  • Use comparative and theoretical techniques to analyse Scottish politics;

  • Analyse policy and policy-making;

  • Engage constructively in debate on Scottish politics.


Core Readings


  • McGarvey, N. and Cairney, P., 2013. Scottish Politics: an Introduction. 2nd Edition. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.


  • Keating, M., 2010. The Government of Scotland: Public Policy Making after Devolution. 2nd Ed. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

  • McCrone, D., 2001. Understanding Scotland. London: Routledge.

  • Cairney, P., 2011. The Scottish Political System since Devolution: From New Politics to the New Scottish Government. Oxford: Imprint Academic.

  • Hassan, G., 2017. Scotland, the UK and Brexit: a Guide to the Future. Edinburgh: Luath Press.

Web Sources

Devolution Matters Blog by Alan Trench

Scottish Government Website

The Smith Commission on the Future of Scotland

Class Handouts

Lecture summaries will be provided.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.