Justice, Civic Engagement and the Public Sphere: Mapping Democratic Transformations in Scottish Society

Summary

What is the project about?

This project, funded by the British Academy/Leverhulme, explored the impact of the 2014 independence referendum on civic participation, and what this means for conceptualisations of justice. It set out to examine the extent to which a reinvigorated public sphere had emerged, and exerted influence on concepts of social justice and active citizenship in Scotland.

When did it begin and end?

Initial interviews were conducted in 2015, with the majority carried out in summer 2016. A research report, Justice, Civic Engagement and the Public Sphere: Mapping Democratic Transformations in Scottish Society, was published in 2017.

What methods were used?

The team mapped the broad political and social context of the referendum, and also carried out qualitative interviews with representatives from civil society organisations as well as grassroots activists. These interviews explored their perceptions and experiences of the Referendum and how their understanding of civic consciousness was formed, reproduced and often constrained.

Why does this matter?

The high level of citizen engagement which marked the 2014 Referendum in Scotland was significant. 97 percent of the population were registered to vote, encouraged by the actions of local political activists and a registration awareness campaign. A turn-out of 84 percent appeared to represent a healthy indication of active citizenship and the re-emergence of democratic debate. This study examined the extent to which civic participation was sustained following the Referendum and explores the relationship between concepts of ‘justice’ and citizenship, and the institutional structures of governance which sustain them.

Contact: m.s.malloch@stir.ac.uk