This year, the Scotland Act 1998 and the Government of Wales Act 1998 celebrate their twentieth anniversary. Few would disagree that the passage of these acts, which established the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales, was an important watershed in the United Kingdom’s majoritarian tradition. This milestone anniversary provides a timely opportunity to reflect on the extent to which devolution has delivered the ‘new politics’ that was widely anticipated; and in my recently published article in The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, I examine the extent to which devolution has ‘made a difference’ by systematically comparing the institutional architecture of the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales with that of Westminster. Continue reading How majoritarianism endures in the structures of the UK’s devolved institutions→
This is an introduction to the Open Access journal article – “The ‘Scottish approach’ to policy and policymaking: what issues are territorial and what are universal?” by Paul Cairney, Siabhainn Russell, and Emily St Denny, in Policy and Politics.
The ‘Scottish approach’ refers to the Scottish Government’s reputation for pursuing a consultative and cooperative style when it makes and implements policy in devolved areas (including health, education, local government and justice). It works with voluntary groups, unions, professional bodies, the private sector and local and health authorities to gather information and foster support for its policy aims. This approach extends to policy delivery, with the Scottish Government willing to produce a broad national strategy and series of priorities – underpinned by the ‘National Performance Framework’ – and trust bodies such as local authorities to meet its aims. In turn, local authorities work with a wide range of bodies in the public, voluntary and private sector – in ‘Community Planning Partnerships’ – to produce shared aims relevant to their local areas. ‘Single Outcome Agreements’ mark a symbolic shift away from ‘topdown’ implementation, in which local authorities and other bodies are punished if they do not meet short-term targets, towards the production of longer-term shared aims and cooperation. Continue reading The ‘Scottish approach’ to policy and policymaking→
May 2015 saw another election victory for the Conservative party in a UK general election, as they formed a majority government at Westminster. Many are concerned about the social equity issues arising from some of the policy decisions already announced, not least the £12 billion in welfare cuts announced in the July budget. However, as we suggest in our paper past research shows we should not be surprised about the direction policy is taking – Julian LeGrand’s work analysing the spending priorities implicit in the cuts meted out by the Thatcher government between 1979 and 1983 showed not only that they were focused on welfare, but that they protected “middle class” services such as education and health. These are also the services that Conservative voters were most likely to use. Continue reading Protecting the services of the middle classes→
In the last twelve months’ heated debates about the SNP’s evolving role in UK politics, there has been far too little focus on their record North of the border, where they have now been in Government for almost two full terms (first as a minority government from 2007-2011, and then, beating the odds of the electoral system, with an unexpected majority since 2011). The UK media has only occasionally engaged with this record in government, and these efforts have often been haphazard potted histories, shifting between judging Scotland’s policies or its outcomes, and between comparing them to the other countries of the UK, or to the pre-recession past.
In the last few months, an intensive spotlight has been thrown on Scottish government and politics. First, almost 45% of the voters supported leaving the UK and second a consensus has emerged that the Scottish Parliament should acquire additional powers. Latterly, opinion polls have chronicled a surge in support for the SNP and potential electoral doom for Labour in Scotland and perhaps consequentially at UK level. These contemporary events provided a good forward for research I have been undertaking over the last few years on scrutiny in the Scottish Parliament. The central themes perhaps being is this resurgent self-confidence in Scottish institutions justified? And how do they differ from those at UK level?
by Sarah Ayres, Reader in Public Policy and Governance, University of Bristol
Despite growing recognition across the major political parties that the territorial system of government in England is in need of change, there remains no clear and shared imagery on how England should be governed within a devolved UK. Recent changes to the political and economic landscape of the UK, especially those arising from the economic crisis and the Scottish referendum result, have made it more vital than ever before to address the English Question in a cohesive manner. Enhanced devolution in England’s territories is a potential solution to the English Question. I make three central claims about what needs to happen if devolution in England is to Continue reading Revisiting the ‘English Question’ Post the Scottish Independence Referendum→
The Scottish referendum has left Westminster politicians reeling. Alongside seeking a rapid constitutional fix in response to demands for the devolution of greater powers and resources to Edinburgh, the unanswered ‘English Question’, for so long merely the concern of constitutional anoraks, has taken centre stage. For decades political devolution in the UK was viewed as being confined to the Celtic fringe and despite rumblings of dissatisfaction around the West Lothian Question, politicians of all persuasions seemed content to ignore its wider and longer term potential impacts on UK government. In the absence of viable alternatives and perceived public apathy it seemed wise to leave the ‘English Question’ unanswered. The events in Scotland suggest that this approach is now untenable. Continue reading UK devolution: England’s turn next?→
The Flower of Scotland may well be blooming but a number of thorny issues face the Prime Minister and the leaders of the main parties in the UK. The Prime Minister’s commitment to a ‘new and fair constitutional settlement’ not just for Scotland but for the whole of the United Kingdom may well reflect the need to think in a joined-up manner about constitutional reform and the devolution of power, but the simple rhetoric cannot veil the complexity of the challenges ahead.
Since first posting it appears that the gap between the yes and no votes is narrowing, suggesting that a yes vote may not be so unlikely after all. Whether this means that Scottish citizens are now tending towards voting with their hearts rather than their heads is another matter. In any case, if you would like to comment, please do so below.
Is the UK really in danger of dis-uniting? The answer is ‘no’. But the more interesting answer is that the independence referendum is, to some extent, a red herring. The nationalists may well ‘lose’ the referendum but they have already ‘won’ the bigger political battle over power and money. All the main political parties in the UK have agreed give Scotland more powers and more financial competencies – or what is called ‘devo-max’ irrespective of what happens on 18 September. Continue reading The Dis-United Kingdom: Goodbye Scotland…or maybe not!→