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Title: Constitutional law
Author: Mitchell, John David Bawden
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1964
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There are both universal and local aspects of constitutional law. The rules may be local, but the problems are universal. The Declaration of Arbroath (from which the quotation on the title page is taken) emphasises both these aspects. The fact that (as Lord Cooper pointed out) it was not entirely original, and the fact of its local significance demonstrate how the universal and the local may blend. Similarly there are both ephemeral and eternal aspects. Since constitutional law is about power and the exercise of power there is some tendency to concentrate upon contemporary issues, which may be of short -lived interest. The enduring object of the rules - liberty -so forcefully emphasised by the Declaration of Arbroath should not however be lost to sight. Too great a concentration upon what is local and may be ephemeral can be harmful unless other elements are borne in mind. Nevertheless, there is perhaps no good time at which to write a book on constitutional law. Continuous change is a greater force than it is often believed to be, and any writer becomes increasingly conscious of circumstances equivalent to those which (reputedly) tempted Professor Thomas Reed Powell to change the title of his course from Constitutional Law to Current Affairs. When this book was in its final stages, the Peerage Act, 1963, was enacted, the reform of local government in Scotland was projected, and litigation such as the Burmah Oil case, capable of casting light on fundamentals, was in train. At the proof stage the problem of selecting a Prime Minister once again became prominent. Of some of these and similar matters it has been possible to take some note, but no proper exploration was practicable. Had the book been held back to make a fuller treatment possible other like events would doubtless have happened meanwhile. In one sense timing does not perhaps matter. The purpose of the book is to treat central institutions, central ideas, and their relationships. In the interest of clarity much detail has therefore been omitted, and an attempt has been made (as the Commissioners of 1707 would have put it) not to stir into any matter which was not essential to the primary purpose. Within these limits the book is, for the most part, concerned with Great Britain. The proper consideration of the position in Northern Ireland, the Channel Isles or the Isle of Man would have involved too many strands of argument. Within Great Britain the emphasis is upon Scottish institutions and rules. Where possible comparison is made where there is significance in differences. This pattern was chosen not merely because of the provenance of the book, but also in the interests of brevity and clarity; an account of both the Scottish and English systems of local government could well be confusing to the student. Nevertheless, since the emphasis is upon central institutions and ideas, it is hoped that the book will have a general utility. For similar reasons, despite what has been said earlier, comparison with other systems beyond the United Kingdom has been limited, though it is to be hoped that opportunity will arise for the proper development of such comparative aspects. No general account has been given of the development of the Commonwealth or of the relationship of the United Kingdom to the Commonwealth since it is conceived that these matters are appropriate to specialist studies. If excuse or justification must be offered for this concentration it might be said that our constitutional institutions and ideas are not thought to have such perfection that an examination of them alone, without further distraction, or complication, is out of place. In relation to matters falling within the scope thus designated descriptive material has been cut down, particularly where there already exists adequate literature. References to such literature have been made, and the references should be pursued. There is little point in summarising familiar printed sources or other men's work (or indeed the fuller state- ments of the author's views which have appeared elsewhere). It is better that students should resort to originals. Further, since an attempt has been made to concentrate upon matters of principle, it will be found that on occasion the position is somewhat baldly stated. Again it is hoped that the material given in the footnotes is adequate for the reader to be able to check and to challenge the propositions which are made. The student reader should be urged to resort to original sources, other readers will no doubt prefer so to do. This method of treatment means however that, on occasion, the footnotes are of more significance than is sometimes the case in somewhat similar works.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (LL.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
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