Politics and International Studies research

Research in Politics at Stirling explores the impact of and interplay between internal pressures upon liberal democracies, such as devolution or the accommodation of minorities, and external challenges associated with the development of the European Union and the relationship with neighbouring countries outside of the EU.

Within this context our research addresses questions of:

  • Regionalism and devolution, with a particular focus on Scottish politics, policymaking and the impact of devolution on the UK party system;
  • European integration and security governance; and,
  • Contemporary debates regarding citizenship in liberal democracies, including questions of national identity, the regulation of migration, and cultural rights for linguistic and ethnic minorities.
Students in Edinburgh outside Scottish Parliament

Research projects

Under the auspices of the Centre for Human Security and European Neighbourhood Studies we are developing a growing strand of research centred on discourses of human security and the manner in which perceptions of threats to human security shape the political agendas at both national and EU level and structure the relationship between Europe and its neighbours.

Our projects include:

  • The Strange Death of Labour Scotlandwhich analyses the last thirty years of Scottish Labour, from the arrival of Thatcherism in 1979 to the aftermath of the party's defeat in the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections
  • The Role of Religion in the Liberal Public Realm, which explores the rights and duties of religious and secular citizens in the light of recent controversies regarding the role of religion in a liberal polity.
  • Revolutions, which applies discourse theory to the analysis of revolutions.
  • Biotechnology regulation, which examines the cultural politics of GM foods and crops in the US and the EU.

Major Collaborative Research Projects

Other high profile research projects include:

  • The Scottish Political Archive (SPA), which chronicles the political history of Scotland in the 20th and 21st century. Its main focus is on Scottish referendums. The SPA contains a wealth of material on the 1979 and 1997 devolution referendums, which will be a key resource in the run up to the 2014 independence referendum. Kevin Adamson and Peter Lynch are currently examining the discourse use to make the for/ against cases in the independence referendum. Peter Lynch, Eric Shaw, Kevin Adamson and Paul Cairney are working with colleagues in history and communications to produce oral history interviews with people formerly and currently at the heart of Scottish politics. The SPA is also now the home of former Fist Minister Jack McConnell’s personal archive.
  • Andrew Glencross is currently pursuing collaborative research on EU sovereignty and EU foreign policy as a member of the Representation in Europe.
  • Kevin Adamson is working with James Krapfl at McGill University (Montréal, Quebec) on the application of discourse theory to the analysis of revolutions.

Scottish Centre on Constitutional Change

The ESRC Scottish Centre on Constitutional Change was launched in October 2013. It forms a major part of the ESRC’s The Future of the UK and Scotland programme which brings the best of UK social science to the debate about Scotland’s constitutional future and its implications for the rest of the UK. The programme will provide an authoritative and independent reference point for those looking for information and insights about the future of the UK and Scotland that stand aside from the politics of the referendum. The Centre will focus in particular on: ‘Defence, Security and Constitutional Change; Intergovernmental co-ordination and representation in the UK and the EU; Monetary union, fiscal pacts and budgeting; Constitutional change and economic performance; the Constitution of Scotland; Constitutional options and policy-making capacity; Constitutional change and inter-generational inequality; and Preventative spending’.

We focus in particular on preventative spending and the ‘Scottish Policy Style’. ‘Preventative spending’ describes a broad aim to reduce the demand for public services by addressing policy problems at an early stage. The broad aim associated with ‘prevention’ is to reduce the government spending devoted to services to address severe social problems at a late stage. The Scottish Government’s particular emphasis is on reducing inequality by reforming public services (or at least the way they operate). ‘Scottish Policy Style’ refers to its reputation for closer cooperation with stakeholders and building policy delivery on trust in implementing bodies (when compared to the UK Government). We explore: (a) the potential for its consultation approach to be used to gather information and foster group ‘ownership’; and (b) the extent to which its approach to implementation is suited to a shift from short term targets to long term outcomes. Can it exploit advantages in relation to its size, with smaller government departments more able to make links across government, and senior policymakers more able to from personal networks with members of key stakeholder and delivery bodies?

This part of the project is directed by Professor Paul Cairney (p.a.cairney@stir.ac.uk, Twitter: @cairneypaul) and Emily St Denny (emily.stdenny@stir.ac.uk) in cooperation with colleagues in Stirling, including Professor David Bell and Professor Kirstein Rummery.

You can learn more about this project on Professor Cairney's Politics and Public Policy blog