PARLIAMENTARY sovereignty should be removed in the UK and the Sewel Convention must be immediately enshrined into law to protect devolution and create a fairer Union, a political expert has insisted in a new book looking at Scotland and Catalonia.

Dr Paul Anderson, a senior lecturer in politics at Liverpool John Moores University, has recently published Territorial Politics in Catalonia and Scotland: Nations In Flux which delves into how independence referendums have shaped both nations while suggesting ideas for political reform in the UK and Spain.

In the book, Anderson argues that while the growth of independence movements in both nations has posed a challenge to the continuation of the Spanish and UK states, so too has the emergence of intolerant right-wing Spanish nationalism and inflexible, muscular British Unionism.

One of the key arguments Anderson makes is for the “abolition of the sacrosanct doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty” and in its place a “division of sovereignty between central and substate governments” which he believes could refashion the UK as a partnership of equals.

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Anderson also insists embedding the Sewel Convention – whereby the UK Government does not normally legislate without consent from devolved governments in devolved areas without the consent of the Scottish Parliament – into law must be a priority for the next UK government.

Parliamentary sovereignty is described on the UK Parliament’s website as “the most important part of the UK constitution”.

But given it means UK legislation cannot be thrown out by the courts but Scottish legislation can, Anderson believes this creates an unworkable hierarchy in the UK today.

He told The National: “The Scottish Parliament is a creature of Westminster statute, it was created by Westminster.

“As a result, and as we saw with Section 35, the UK Parliament retains – because of parliamentary sovereignty -  the power to block Scottish legislation.

“The Supreme Court cannot strike down legislation from the UK Parliament but it can strike down legislation from a devolved government.

“This creates an unequal relationship. In a federal state, sovereignty is divided. In Canada, the federal government is just as sovereign as the government in Alberta.

“So we need to move away from antiquated notions of sovereignty and start thinking about a more equal way of looking at and working with different parts of the UK, so you would have a sovereign parliament in Scotland that would just be a sovereign as Westminster.”

Anderson went on to highlight how governments in the UK and Spain function with far too much centralisation to the point where Scottish Secretary Alister Jack (above) called for “a more centralised approach to our response” to future pandemics in the UK during the Covid inquiry.

“That’s wrong. The Spanish government centralised and it led to confusion and criticism of the Spanish government by its own politicians,” said Anderson.

“We need to rebuild trust, that’s something that’s lacked in both cases [Spain and UK]. In the UK [it’s been] because of Brexit where the Scottish Government was sidelined a lot and that has damaged a lot of relations, and in Catalonia because of the 2017 referendum and the legal consequences of that.

“We need a political culture where there is trust between different components.”

He added: “More reform is needed within the central state, within the UK Government and Whitehall, to understand devolution and seek to understand why a significant chunk of the population want independence and how you mitigate that and it's fairly simple - if you want the Union to stay intact, you have to listen to those people, not ignore them.

“More must be done to ensure people within Scotland are happy with arrangements and that may mean introducing more autonomy, the devolution of more powers, but importantly, while Scotland is still within the Union, what needs to happen is reform in Whitehall and Westminster because since 1999, Scotland has really changed but Westminster has not.”

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Anderson highlighted how intergovernmental relations were an “afterthought” in the devolution settlement which failed to lay out how the Scottish and UK governments should  interact.

An example of this playing out is the Joint Ministerial Committee – whose purpose was to provide coordination of the overall relationship between the administration of the UK – was pulled in 2022 and replaced with the Prime Minister and Head of Devolved Governments Council, which has not met since November 2022.

Anderson also believes the Sewel Convention needs to be embedded in law by the next UK government to provide a legal safeguard for self-government, not just a political one.

The convention has until recent years been widely respected by UK governments but has come under significant strain throughout the Brexit process, such as when the Scottish Parliament rejected the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act but it was passed anyway.

On top of this, he has suggested that reforming the House of Lords to make it a “territorially representative chamber” which he thinks can further facilitate “multinational interaction”.

He said: “This is the idea of having a chamber that represents the territorial makeup of the UK. You could have equal representation from the four nations of the UK to comment on and vote on and negotiate constitutional and territorial issues.

“It’s about ensuring the voice of the regions and nations are in central government decision-making processes, which you don’t have at the moment. If you look at German second chamber, that represents the 16 lander of Germany. They have a lot of influence on the federal government because they have a chamber that represents their interests.”

To find out more about Territorial Politics in Scotland and Catalonia: Nations In Flux click here.