In a public statement sent to the main political party leaders, the British Academy warns today that constitutional change ‘should not be entered into unadvisedly or lightly’ – or rushed – and proposes three crucial tests any new constitutional changes should meet.
Drawing on the advice of some of the UK’s leading academic specialists on constitutional issues, the Academy stresses the vital importance of ‘expert evidence, research and analysis – along with open public debate’ informing any legislative changes.
The three tests it puts forward today as vital for enduring constitutional change cover parliamentary consensus, wide popular consultation, and the enduring settlement of contentious questions.
- Constitutional reform should be the product of a clear parliamentary consensus – with every possible effort made to secure all-party agreement – and must not benefit one party at the expense of others.
- There should be wide public consultation before significant constitutional reforms are introduced – and in some cases a referendum may be appropriate.
- Constitutional reform should, as far as possible, provide an enduring settlement of contentious questions, and not require constant revision.
Prior to the Scottish referendum, the Academy published two reports analysing the key issues affecting Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the UK, with a further report addressing issues of devolution in Wales. It is now promoting analysis and debate on the issues relating to devolution and constitutional change through a series of events produced with UCL’s Constitution Unit, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and other partners.
In its letter to party leaders the Academy urges all parties to support these principles and the tests we are proposing. The Academy also expresses its willingness to continue to provide expert advice to all parties involved, by facilitating advice from its Fellows and other leading academics in exploring the complex issues involved in legislating for constitutional change.