Scottish referendum: Yes vote to independence could leave Australia without head of state, expert says

If the Scottish independence vote is successful the political and legal ramifications could flow to Australia, leaving it without a head of state, a constitutional expert has warned.


Assuming I under stand the article correctly: If the Scottish independence vote succeeds, and QE2 is appointed sovereign of an independent Scottish monarchy (in addition to remaining sovereign of what remains of Britain), then legally there may no longer exist a sovereign of the United Kingdom, resulting in all manners of constitutional shenanigans:

Professor Stewart said that would “set adrift” the roles of Australia’s governor-general and the governors of each Australian state.

“This would affect the whole apparatus of the government,” he said.

Professor Stewart warned Scottish independence could also pose a challenge to the validity of the governor-general, who alone can summon Federal Parliament.

This could mean the Federal Government would only be able to continue until the end of the next parliamentary session.

If there was the sudden need for a general election, this would also be a problem because only the governor-general can formally call one.


I’m not sure if I want to laugh or cry at this prospect.

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You want to laugh. This is all funny, all the time.

(@ Iain Stewart (Author of linked Article))

Really? Constitutional Crisis? I don’t think so.

Ever since the Balfour Declaration of 1926, (codified by the Statute of Westminster 1931, adopted in Australia in 1942) the Crown of all the Commonwealth Realms became legally separate.

Which means that if the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland dissolved into the “United Kingdom of England and Northern Ireland” and the “Scottish State”, The legal effects of the separation to the Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia is… bugger all!
They will be still representing the Monarch of Australia- Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Australia

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Holy crap, would this all explain Tony’s comments about the Scots and their vote?

You give him too much credit, @mkeating.

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I’m not convinced this will be a huge issue. The Constitution states that provisions relating to “the Queen” extend to her heirs of the throne of the United Kingdom (clause 2). Fairly certain that the successor state to the United Kingdom would be the same as it is now, sans Scotland. Russia was the successor to the USSR, and the PRC the successor to the Republic of China. It’s not much of a stretch to say that Elizabeth II will remain Queen, and her heirs the Monarchs of Australia.


Without looking too deeply into this I can think of two immediate reasons why this isn’t an issue.

  1. Scotland won’t immediately become independent if the referendum gets up. There will need to be lenghty negotiations bwtween the Scottish and British governments over many issues and it will presumably be a few years before all of this is concluded and Scotland then became independent.
  2. The Australian Constitution, dating from 1900 as it does, currently refers to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, which is what it was then, so if there was a constitutional validity problem would this not already be the case given the independence of the Republic of Ireland???

Not to mention that if it was to cause a constitutional problem for Australia that’d be a fantastic excuse to reform our constitution.

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