Lecturer in Public Law and Human Rights

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Dr Elisenda Casanas Adam's Homepage at Edinburgh Law School


Elisenda Casanas Adam is a Lecturer in Public Law and Human Rights and a member of the Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law. Her main research interests lie in the comparative analysis of public law, focusing on the legal accommodation of national identity, the courts and the judiciary, devolution, judicial review and human rights. She has a special interest in the public law of Scotland and the United Kingdom, and of Catalonia and Spain.

Prior to joining the Law School in 2011, Elisenda was a Lecturer in Constitutional Law at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (2009-2011) and the University of Girona (2008-2009), and has been a visiting lecturer for the University of Alicante at the Judicial Council of Tabasco, Mexico (2011).

She holds degrees from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spanish law degree and LLM) and the European University Institute (PhD, ‘Judicial federalism from a comparative perspective: Spain, the United States and the United Kingdom'). She has also been a visiting researcher at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Edinburgh.

Current Research Interests

Elisenda has been involved in various research projects in different areas of public law, including the ‘Report on the Final Appellate Jurisdiction in Scotland' (2010) and the ‘White Book on Mediation in Catalonia' (2008-2010). She is currently part of a comparative project on the ‘The changes in the model of relationship between the judicial power and the autonomous communities' (University of Girona /Autonomous University of Barcelona) and an interdisciplinary project on ‘Children of immigrant families in affluent countries. Report on the case of Catalonia in the context of the European Union'  (http://grupsderecerca.uab.cat/emigra/en/content/s%C3%ADlvia-carrasco).

She is also continuing her work on the project ‘Multilevel human rights protection in the UK: the new Supreme Court and the proposals for a Bill of Rights within the complex nature of the State', for which she came to Edinburgh with a research grant from the Institute of Autonomic Studies in Barcelona (2011).

Courses Taught

International Human Rights Law (LLM)

PhD Supervisees

Valentina Rioseco Vallejos  'Human Rights Law in Chilean domestic courts: Situating Migration and Refugee Issues.'

Rebecca Smyth  'Abortion and Human Rights Law: A comparative study of Ireland and El Salvador'


Elisenda Casanas Adam, Dimitrios Kagiaros, Stephen Tierney, 'Democracy in question? Direct democracy in the European Union ', (2018), European Constitutional Law Review, Vol 14, pp 261-282
Abstract: Challenges posed to European integration by exercises of direct democracy at the national or sub-state level – EU response to referendums on internal constitutional matters – Greek, Scottish and Catalan referendum processes -Resilience of state nationalism and the complex pluralisation of identities below the level of the state

Daniel Cetra, E. Casanas-Adam, M. Tàrrega, 'The 2017 Catalan independence referendum: A symposium', (2018), Scottish Affairs, Vol 27, pp 126-143
Abstract: This article summarises contributions to an ASEN-Edinburgh (Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism, Edinburgh Branch) symposium held the day after the 2017 Catalan referendum on independence. Daniel Cetrà describes a referendum disputed between legal and democratic legitimacy and grounded on competing visions of nationhood. Elisenda Casanas-Adam argues that there are alternative interpretations of the Spanish constitution which could accommodate Catalan request and highlights the questionable legality of the Spanish authorities' forceful response. Mariola Tàrrega argues that the Catalan referendum reveals a worrying context where news media become political advocates of opposing worldviews and politicians attribute to news media an overstated capacity to shape nation-building projects. © 2018, Edinburgh University Press.

Elisenda Casanas Adam, 'An unanswered or unanswerable question? The Scottish Parliament's competence to legislate for an Independence Referendum for Scotland ', (2017), Revista Catalana de Dret Públic, Vol 54, pp 81-99
Abstract: This article analyses the debates on whether the Scottish Parliament could unilaterally legislate for an independence referendum leading up to the 2014 vote, setting out first the relevant legal framework, and then highlighting the different positions put forward in this sense. It then argues that these positions responded to different existing constitutional narratives as to the nature of the UK (unitary, federal or quasi-federal, and union) and how by leaving this question open, the specific endorsement of one of these narratives was avoided. Finally, it reflects on the impact of the specific aspects of the 2014 process on the current competence debate and on the available options for the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a second independence referendum. Overall, it argues that because of the existence of these competing constitutional narratives, as occurs also in other plurinational states, a strictly legal approach will not provide a satisfactory answer to the competence question. Despite being framed in legal terms, this is a fundamentally political question that requires a political answer.

Elisenda Casanas Adam, 'The Independence Referendum and Debates on Catalonia's Constitutional Future ', (2014), Tijdschrift voor Constitutioneel Recht, pp 162-171

Elisenda Casanas Adam, 'The Independence Referendum and Debates on Scotland's Constitutional Future ', (2014), Tijdschrift voor Constitutioneel Recht, pp 149-161

Elisenda Casanas Adam, Montserrat Guibernau, François Rocher, 'Introduction: A Special Section on Self-Determination and the Use of Referendums:: Catalonia, Quebec and Scotland', (2014), International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, Vol 27, pp 1-3

Elisenda Casanas Adam, 'Self-determination and the Use of Referendums: The Case of Scotland', (2014), International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, Vol 27, pp 47-66
Abstract: The Scottish Nationalist Party’s majority in the 2011 Scottish parliamentary elections opened up a wide and interesting debate on the variety of options for Scotland’s constitutional future (ranging from the status quo through a variety of intermediate options to full independence), and with it, also the innovate possibility of a multi-option referendum, reflecting the preferences of the people of Scotland. However, while the UK Government agreed that the future of Scotland’s place within the Union was for the people of Scotland to vote on, it strongly contested the Scottish Parliament’s competence to legislate for the referendum, thus ensuring a role for itself and the UK Parliament in its design. After a period of negotiations, the UK and Scottish Governments signed the Edinburgh Agreement on the 15th October 2012, enabling the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a single question referendum, and expressing their commitment to work together in the interests of all involved. This article begins looking at the background, legal framework and negotiations leading up to the Edinburgh Agreement. It then argues that, while the Agreement is notably significant and has allowed for the smooth and fast development of the process so far, by excluding the possibility of including a third option of ‘more devolution’ on the ballot paper, it is having a series of negative consequences for the current debate, namely that it is more limited, confusing and uncertain, and largely unbalanced in favour of the ‘no’ side.

Elisenda Casanas Adam, 'Drets Fonamentals i Devolution: El nou Tribunal Suprem i la Proposta de Carta de Drets Fonamentals del Parlament Britanic en el Marc de l'Estat Compost', (2012), Revista d'Estudis Autonomics i Federals, Vol 15, pp 10-43
Abstract: Human rights and devolution: The new Supreme Court and the proposals for a bill of rights for the UK within the complex framework of the State. The articulation of human rights protection within the complex nature of the State is currently under intense debate in the United Kingdom, sparked by the establishment of the new Supreme Court and the proposals for a UK bill of rights. This article analyses the current reforms and their surrounding debates, focusing on the case of Scotland, which at the same time highlights the complexity of the model and the effects of devolution on the pre-existing constitutional framework. To this end, it is organised in three parts which consider the interaction between devolution and rights protection, the debates surrounding the Supreme Court in human rights cases for Scotland and the debates surrounding the proposals for a bill of rights for the United Kingdom. The different positions in these debates reflect the diverse perceptions of the nature of the State within the United Kingdom (unitary-decentralized, union, federal), which result in different views of how rights protection should be articulated.


Elisenda Casanas Adam, 'The Constitutional Court of Spain From system balancer to polarizing centralist' in Nicholas Aroney, John Kinkaid (ed.) Courts in Federal Countries (University of Toronto Press 2017) 367-403

Elisenda Casanas Adam, Francois Rocher, 'L’encadrement juridique du droit de décider la politique du confinement judiciaire en Catalogne et au Québec' in Patrick Taillon, Eugenie Brouillet, Amelie Binette (ed.) Un regard québécois sur le droit constitutionnel (Thopson Publishing: Les Editions Yvon Blais 2016) 877-909

Elisenda Casanas Adam, Francois Rocher, '(Mis)recognition in Catalonia and Quebec The Politics of Judicial Containment' in Jaime Lluch (ed.) Constitutionalism and the Politics of Accommodation in Multinational Democracies (Palgrave Macmillan 2014) 46-69

Elisenda Casanas Adam, 'El Poder Judicial en Estados Unidos ' in Manuel Gerpe Landin, Miguel Angel Cabellos Espierrez (ed.) Poder Judicial y modelo de Estado (Atelier 2013) 45-62

Elisenda Casanas Adam, 'El Decreto 279/2006 la mediación escolar como proceso educativo de resolución de conflictos' in Elena Lauroba (ed.) Materiales Jurídicos del Libro Blanco de Mediación en Cataluña (CEFFA 2011) 55-65

Elisenda Casanas Adam, Nuria Galera, Isabel Viola, Emma Teodoro, Paula Ruiz, 'Les Professions Jurídiques i la Mediació ' in P. Casanovas (ed.) Llibre Blanc de la mediació a Catalunya (Departament de Justícia, Generalitat de Catalunya 2010) 1027-63

Elisenda Casanas Adam, Silvia Carrasco, Maribel Ponferrada, Rita Villa, 'Mediació escolar i diversitat sociocultural ' in P. Casanovas (ed.) Llibre blanc de la mediació a Catalunya (Departament de Justícia, Generalitat de Catalunya 2010) 437-517

Elisenda Casanas Adam, 'Los órganos garantes de la autonomía política ' in Miguel Angel Aparicio, Merce Barcelo (ed.) Los órganos garantes de la autonomía política (Atelier 2009) 245-51

Elisenda Casanas Adam, 'La protecció dels menors front als grups de manipulació psicològica ' in Les implicacions jurídiques del fenòmen dels grups de manipulació psicològica (Generalitat Catalunya 2003) 249-62

Working Papers

Elisenda Casanas Adam, 'The Scottish Independence Referendum- Lessons Learned for the Future: Edinburgh School of Law Research Paper No. 2016/19' 2016
Abstract: This paper analyses the lessons learned from Scottish independence referendum as a model for future referendums held by sub-state national units to decide on their constitutional future, either for Scotland and further afield. It begins by highlighting the main positive aspects of the process. It argues that the Scottish independence referendum was an example of political negotiation and agreement between the Scottish and UK governments that provided a solid legal framework for the referendum, including the setting of a clear, neutral and independently tested question. This enabled an extensive informed and deliberative process focused on the central issue to be decided: independence for Scotland. The paper then considers two factors that added unnecessary uncertainty to the referendum debate and had an impact on the decisiveness of the outcome. The first was the importance of continuing EU membership for Scotland and the lack of a clear position in EU law on what would happen in the case of a ‘Yes’ vote. The second was the removal of the intermediate option between ‘independence’ and the ‘status quo’ from the ballot paper, despite it being the preferred option of a significant majority of Scottish citizens. The paper concludes that a clear and effectively neutral position from the EU would be required to avoid this issue affecting the debate and decision on an internal constitutional issue, and that more generally a multi-option referendum may be more suited to providing an encompassing debate on the sub-state national unit’s constitutional future and a more decisive outcome.