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Re-inventing the Union: Dicey, Devolution, and the Union

Re-inventing the Union: Dicey, Devolution, and the Union

(p.35) 3 Re-inventing the Union: Dicey, Devolution, and the Union
Anglo-Scottish Relations, from 1900 to Devolution and Beyond
James Mitchell
British Academy

This chapter addresses the fictions and reshaping of the United Kingdom constitution over the twentieth century. It also examines the territorial nature of the UK, making use of the most significant contributor to the creation of fictions concerned with territorial politics. Albert Venn Dicey contributed to the creation of one fiction — that of parliamentary sovereignty. He also contributed largely through popularising the notion. The chapter starts by describing the territorial nature of the UK. The caricatures, polemics and principles of Dicey are reported. His work, thinking and interpretations have been influential in two related respects, though these two are often conflated. First, Dicey has been influential in informing how the constitution operated and operates, and secondly how it ought to operate: he has been both descriptively and prescriptively influential. The three watchwords by Dicey comprise a pluralist fiction which has informed constitutional debate. These watchwords remain important but the balance has altered fundamentally.

Keywords:   Albert Venn Dicey, United Kingdom constitution, territorial politics, parliamentary sovereignty, constitutional debate

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