Madras College

Politics - Higher

Mr Robertson

 We have taught Higher Politics at Madras for several years, presently there is much to discuss in the world of Politics. This is an exciting and challenging course which is normally offered to pupils in S6.

This page aims to give you a very brief overview of the course structure and includes some useful links to support material.

Study support classes are always available for all pupils of Higher Politics - arranged with Mr Robertson.

Course Structure

  • Political Theory
  • Political Structures (Madras compares the UK political system with the USA)
  • Political Parties and Elections
  • Course Assignment (assessed by the SQA)
  • Final Exam (assessed by the SQA)

Course Detail

Political Theory

Candidates study the key political concepts of power, authority and legitimacy, with particular reference to the work of Steven Lukes and Max Weber, and analyse the relevance of these concepts today.

They study the nature of democracy and the arguments for and against direct and representative democracy, including the works of relevant theorists.

Candidates study the key ideas of two political ideologies (from Liberalism, Conservatism, Socialism, Nationalism, and Fascism) including the works of relevant theorists, and draw balanced conclusions about the chosen ideologies.

Relevant case studies are used from either local, national or international contexts, as well as different historical contexts.


Power, authority and legitimacy

- Power -

  • different definitions of power
  • the conflict view of power and differing interpretations of how power is distributed in society
  • Steven Lukes' 'three faces of power': decision making, non-decision making and manipulating desires

- Authority -

  • authority as rightful power which implies an obligation to obey
  • Max Weber's three types of authority: traditional, charismatic and legal-rational

- Legitimacy -

  • the sense of rightfulness
  • the relevance of Max Weber's classifications
  • the ways in which legitimacy may be enabled
  • the impact on a political system of the loss of legitimacy


- Direct and representative democracy -

  • the nature of democracy and different forms of democracy
  • arguments for and against direct democracy
  • arguments for and against representative democracy
  • theorists, for example: Plato, Schumpeter or Dahl


Key political ideologies

- Liberalism -

  • theorists, for example: Locke, Mill
  • key ideas, for example: rationalism, individualism, toleration, consent, freedom, rights

- Conservatism -

  • theorists, for example: Burke, Disraeli
  • key ideas, for example: human imperfection, tradition, security, authority, organic society, private property

- Socialism -

  • theorists, for example: Marx, Lenin
  • key ideas, for example: co-operation, collectivism, equality, class, common ownership

- Nationalism -

  • theorists, for example: Mazzini, Herder
  • key ideas, for example: the nation, self-determination, organic community, patriotism, identity

- Fascism -

  • theorists, for example: Mussolini, Hitler
  • key ideas, for example: irrationalism, ultra-nationalism, racialism, authoritarian leadership, organicism

Although there are many different Politcal Ideologies, Madras presently compares Socialism and Conservatism.


Political Systems

Candidates study the constitutional arrangements in different political systems. The detailed study of the political systems focuses on the roles of the executive and legislative branches within each system. Candidates compare and contrast the respective powers of individual branches of government within the two political systems, and draw balanced conclusions about these.

Candidates study two of the following five political systems: the UK political system; the Scottish political system; the political system of the United States of America; the European Union political system; or the political system of the People's Republic of China.

Candidates take a comparative approach which reaches conclusions about the sources of power within two political systems.

Constitutional Arrangements

Candidates compare the nature and status of the different constitutional approaches within two chosen systems, including:

  • the type and nature of the constitutional approach
  • the origins and development of the constitutional arrangements
  • key underlying principles
  • the flexibility and adaptability in each system
  • the position of the judiciary
  • the role of the constitution in safeguarding individual rights

The Legislative Branch

Candidates compare the influence of the legislative branch within two chosen systems, including:

  • the passage of legislation
  • the ability to scrutinise the actions of government
  • the role of committees

The Executive Branch

Candidates compare the influence of the executive branch within two chosen systems, including:

  • the distribution of power
  • the policy-making function
  • the relationship between the executive and other branches of government

Political parties and elections

Candidates compare the electoral impact of two different dominant ideas. This can either be from within one political party or between two different political parties. Candidates can choose from the following: the Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats or Scottish National Party. These ideas are studied alongside the impact of political campaign management strategies and theoretical analyses of voting behaviour.

Relevant case studies are used from Scotland, the United Kingdom, or both Scotland and the United Kingdom.


The dominant ideas within or between political parties

- Conservative, for example -

  • one-nation conservatism
  • Thatcherism

- Labour, for example -

  • democratic socialism
  • new Labour

- Liberal Democrat, for example -

  • social liberalism
  • The Orange Book

- Scottish National Party, for example -

  • civic nationalism
  • left-of-centre social democratic

The impact of political campaign management strategies

Candidates analyse, evaluate and compare the effectiveness of the following:

  • traditional grassroots campaign strategies
  • media strategies
  • use of new technology

Theories of voting behaviour

Candidates analyse, evaluate and compare the effectiveness of the following:

  • rational choice model
  • sociological model
  • party identification model



  • End of Unit Assessments - 1 per unit described above
  • The Higher Course Assignment (30 marks - 27% of final grade)
    1 hour 30 minutes write up, under exam conditions
  • Higher Politics Examination (80 marks - 73% of final grade)

    Paper 1: Skills-based paper lasting 1 hour 15 minutes (52 marks)
    Paper 2: Essay-based paper which lasts 1 hour 45 min (28 marks)

    In Paper I candidates need to complete two 20-mark questions and a 12-mark question.
    In Paper II candidates need to complete two information handling skills-based questions, one worth 8 marks and the other worth 20 marks based on electoral data.


The assignment allows candidates to demonstrate the following skills, knowledge and understanding:

  • identifying a political issue that invites discussion and debate
  • researching a political issue using a range of sources of information
  • showing detailed factual and theoretical knowledge and understanding of a political issue
  • communicating information from, and referring to, political sources
  • analysing and synthesising information in a structured manner
  • drawing a detailed and reasoned conclusion, showing an awareness of different points of view

The assignment component has 30 marks out of a total of 110 marks for course assessment. The assignment is therefore worth 27% of the overall marks for the course assessment.

Useful Resources

  • SQA Course Specification with detail on each unit area
  • Understanding Standards with assessment details on the Exam Paper and Assignment
  • Microsoft TEAMS - All pupils have been added to the Higher Modern Studies TEAM (all pupils have access to the MS suite when logging on via GLOW, word, OneDrive, PowerPoint, excel etc)
  • Pupils also have access to Politics Review and will be issued with a password for this.
  • There are many more websites and resources. Pupils should check TEAMS on a regular basis as resources will be posted there.