Devolution in the UK

Devolution in the UK

James Mitchell
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Devolution in the UK
    Book Description:

    This book explains devolution today in terms of the evolution of past structures of government in the component parts of the United Kingdom. It highlights the importance of the English dimension and the role that England’s territorial politics played in constitutional debates. Similarities and differences between how the components of the UK were governed are described. It argues that the UK should be understood now, even more than pre-devolution, as a state of distinct unions, each with its own deeply rooted past and trajectory. Using previously unpublished primary material, as well as a wealth of secondary work, the book offers a comprehensive account of the territorial constitution of the UK from the early twentieth century through to the operation of the new devolved system of government.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-327-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of boxes and tables
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. 1 Constituting the UK
    (pp. 1-15)

    In an article written in 1999, Peter Riddell of the London Times wrote, ‘The British dislike thinking constitutionally. It is somehow alien to our much-valued pragmatism’ (The Times, 18 January 1999). Professor Sir David Edward, former Judge of the European Court of Justice, went further. In a lecture in 2005 he argued, ‘We have become constitutionally illiterate, to the extent that we do not understand our own constitution’ (Edwards 2005: 9). The reason for this constitutional illiteracy is partly that there is no agreement on what constitutes the UK constitution. De Tocqueville is sometimes quoted as saying that England has...

  7. 2 Approaching to Arch-angelic: administrative devolution in Scotland
    (pp. 16-39)

    Administrative devolution is the term used to describe the Scottish and Welsh Offices. Significantly, a different term – direct rule – is used to describe the Northern Ireland Office. Though similar in many respects, there are differences between the two British territorial departments and the Northern Ireland Office. The Scottish Office has always been headed by politicians with a political base in Scotland and since 1945 always with a Scottish seat in the Commons. The Scottish Office was a concession catering for Scottish distinctiveness. It had both a symbolic and a substantive function. Symbolically, it represented recognition by government at the centre...

  8. 3 Staggering forward little by little: administrative devolution in Wales
    (pp. 40-66)

    The history of Welsh central administration and the Welsh Office resembles that of Scotland. Campaigns for a Welsh Office used Scotland as a precedent. The Welsh Office was created in 1964 when Labour came to power under Harold Wilson but its roots lay deep in institutional developments earlier in the twentieth century. In the 1890s, Alfred Thomas, Glamorgan MP, with the support of Lloyd George, argued unsuccessfully for a Welsh Secretary of State (Hansard, Commons, 24 February 1890, cols 1069ff). His various proposals were, as Coupland remarked, ‘ somewhat clumsy measures, of administrative devolution . . . no more than...

  9. 4 Encouraging conformity, not emphasising differences: Northern Ireland
    (pp. 67-91)

    The irony has frequently been noted that the most vehement opponents of devolution came to support it for Northern Ireland. Amongst these was A.V. Dicey, the constitutional lawyer and leading opponent of Irish home rule. Towards the end of his life, his efforts, as those of other Unionists, focused on Ulster. Though often caricatured, Dicey’s thinking on home rule was both subtle and sophisticated. He did not argue that the state was one and indivisible, though some of his writing on sovereignty may have implied this. He rejected the proposition that relations with Ireland should be governed by equality, similarity...

  10. 5 A chaos of areas and bodies: the English dimension
    (pp. 92-110)

    England presents the greatest challenge to advocates of devolution in the UK. There is little evidence of support for a separate English Parliament or for regional government in the English regions but devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has implications for England and these implications have been significant in blocking Irish, Welsh and Scottish demands in the past. There are, of course, English regional problems and issues. The functional reach of the state requires some regional tier of government. In other words, the regional questions which face England are those associated with the implications of accommodating the demands of...

  11. 6 The settled will of the Scottish people
    (pp. 111-141)

    At Labour’s Scottish conference in March 1994, Labour leader John Smith declared that a Scottish Parliament was the ‘ settled will of the Scottish people’ and would be the ‘cornerstone of our plans for democratic renewal’ in Britain (Scotsman, 12 March 1994). Smith died two months later. His declaration that a parliament was Scotland’s ‘settled will’ became a rallying cry for home rulers. Smith and Labour had moved a great distance in the period he had been in Parliament. As late as 1974, Smith opposed devolution but he became one of its most ardent supporters after becoming Minister for Devolution...

  12. 7 Devolution is a process: Wales
    (pp. 142-166)

    Even more than Scotland, the nature of the union between Wales and the rest of Britain has undergone significant change over a relatively short period of time. A historical overview is essential to understand why Welsh devolution today differs from that which exists in Scotland. What becomes clear is that while Welsh devolution is a pale version of that in Scotland, Welsh institutional development has been more dramatic. Wales demonstrates that while the past shapes the present, it need not dominate the future. Wales has had the advantage of having the Scottish precedent to follow. But the resemblances and precedents...

  13. 8 In search of legitimacy: Northern Ireland since 1972
    (pp. 167-194)

    In retrospect, the imposition of direct rule looks inevitable. There was no consensus in Northern Ireland on the basic rules of constitutional politics. As Richard Rose remarked, the ‘chief political institutions’ of Northern Ireland were ‘institutions of discord’ (Rose 1971: 113). Northern Ireland lacked a ‘loyal opposition’, a ‘sine qua nonfor fully legitimate regimes’ (Ibid.: 447). In the conclusion of his study of Northern Ireland, Rose argued, ‘Any political solution requires two things that are usually conspicuous by their absence: time and goodwill. When discord has been institutionalized for centuries, as in Northern Ireland . . . one may...

  14. 9 The English Question
    (pp. 195-218)

    England, maintained Richard Rose, claimed no distinctive institutions of governance ‘though it acquires these, if only by default, when Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland opt out of specific policies’ (Rose 1982: 31). In other words, an English dimension emerges simply because it is what is left, albeit the largest part of the state, after special provisions are made for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Robert Hazell has pointed out that the English Question has resulted from the programme of devolution and regionalism since 1997. He described it as a ‘portmanteau heading for a whole series of questions about the government...

  15. 10 Ever looser union
    (pp. 219-226)

    The central argument of this book is that devolved government was the culmination of processes that had evolved over many decades but devolution was never inevitable. There was no single ‘track’ which the United Kingdom started down. England has been the archetypal unitary polity. It would be an exaggeration to describe it as uniform but it has been a highly centralised polity in which the myth of parliamentary sovereignty easily gained adherents. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the empirical evidence of England as a unitary polity had taken on a normative quality and England could hardly be perceived...

  16. Bibliography and sources
    (pp. 227-250)
  17. Index
    (pp. 251-262)