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The Unfinished Business of Devolution: The Challenges Ahead Guy Lodge Research Fellow, Democracy Institute for Public Policy.

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Presentation on theme: "The Unfinished Business of Devolution: The Challenges Ahead Guy Lodge Research Fellow, Democracy Institute for Public Policy."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Unfinished Business of Devolution: The Challenges Ahead Guy Lodge Research Fellow, Democracy Institute for Public Policy Research

2 Outline Basic features of UK devolution settlement Future Challenges & Tensions –Political –Constitutional –Citizenship –Cultural/Identity Potential solutions

3 Caveats This is a short overview Not a detailed exploration of the individual settlements in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland: in particular will not deal with Northern Ireland V interested in lessons from the Spanish experience

4 UK Devolution: A very British Affair Muddle through – Asymmetry Scotland: Parliament; full legislative powers; marginal tax powers Wales: secondary legislative powers (unique model); no tax powers; evolving process Northern Ireland- consociation model Individual settlements reflect specific national contexts and public opinion

5 Implementing Devolution Smooth and painless implementation (NI exception): not the break up of Britain Support for devolution is high But benign conditions: –Labour in power in all 3 capitals –Public spending feast Yet constitutional reform unleashes powerful dynamic forces – with both anticipated and unanticipated consequences –Legal; political and institutional Devolution no exception –there is unfinished business –Outstanding anomalies & new challenges need addressing –Benign conditions unravelling

6 Challenges to the devolution settlement The position of England The end of Labour hegemony Changing nature of UK citizenship A weak and uninterested centre A Union without Britishness

7 1. England – the gaping hole in the devolution settlement Most significant post-devolution anomalies concern England Representation: West Lothian Question – Scots voting on matters only affecting England (decisive over foundation hospitals & tuition fees) Finance: English subsidy (esp south-east middle England) Galvanised by right wing press the English are beginning to sit up and take note of these anomalies: over 70% think it is wrong for Scottish MPs to vote on English matters Electoral arithmetic not good: Labour majority in England (43) likely to fall and increase reliance on Scottish and Welsh votes.

8 2. The end of Labour hegemony: Prospect of New Political Configurations Devolution settlement will be tested by party political conflict: e.g. SNP/Lib Dem Edinburgh and Labour or Tory in London Especially over funding: Barnett formula/ Public spending feast is over Intergovernmental institutions are weak and untested and based on gentlemanly agreements

9 3. Changing the basis of UK citizenship rights Devolution means differences: substantial policy divergence (esp. public services: e.g. 4 NHS) – and this when the same parties are in power Equity versus diversity conundrum: How do you sustain UK-wide minimum standards and allow difference? Paradox – the public want devolution but they wont tolerate difference: postcode lottery syndrome Lack of leadership on this – esp. from UK government

10 4. The centre: an event not a process No capacity to think UK-wide anymore The centre has turned its back on the devolved administrations – it was an event not a process No articulation of what devolution means (e.g. citizenship rights); no attention paid to IGR machinery No interest in capturing policy innovation

11 5. The Union without Britishness Growth of national identities at expense of Britishness (though not directly linked to devolution) 2003 Scottish not British: 72% Welsh not British: 60% English not British: 38% (and growing) Parallel communities: Too much difference not enough of what we have in common? Similarities with multiculturalism debate What impact will a decline in common identity have on fiscal transfers (that S/W/NI depend on)? We need to know more about what impact a decline in Britishness will have

12 Solutions: redefine the role of the centre Department for the Nations and Localities –to manage territorial conflict –to capture innovation –to provide leadership on devolution UK govt should reinvent itself as the guarantor of UK-wide minimum standards Ultimately a constitutional statement on the level of divergence on social minimum and fiscal transfers? Time for the centre to engage with devolution

13 Answering the West Lothian Question? English votes on English laws is not the answer. –Legal – no such thing as English law –Practical – legislative hokey cokey –Constitutional – UK govt (Lab); Eng govt (Tory) – bigger constitutional anomaly than WLQ. English parliament by stealth. The only coherent answer to the WLQ is an English Parliament –No support (16%) –Unworkable federation (85% English dominance) Instead PR & revival of local government (not regions): alleviate but not solve WLQ Instead reform Barnett – move to needs-based system (public care more about cash than constitution) These would take the heat out of post-devolution anomalies

14 WLQ is the wrong question WLQ worse that Schleswig-Holstein question: no one knows the answer. We need a new question Recast the WLQ around questions of how the government of England can be improved End curse of English centralism: Revitalise local government

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