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Chapter

Cover UK Politics

11. Devolution and local government  

This chapter turns to the forms of government that cover specific areas within the UK. These territories fall into two general categories: devolved and local government. The chapter introduces the general roles of these tiers of government, their powers, their responsibilities and how they function. It introduces a number of theoretical perspectives to these subjects. It looks at the balance of power between the various systems that exist. It offers examples as to how that balance of power works in reality. The chapter also considers the mechanisms for regulating interventions by the UK Parliament into devolved spheres of operation; the process of expansion of Welsh devolution over time; the devolution of responsibility for police and justice in Northern Ireland; devolution to local government in England; and innovatory approaches in Scotland. The chapter provides an assessment of devolution and local government and gives some historical context as well. Finally, the chapter looks at the relationship between Brexit and devolution.

Chapter

Cover UK Politics

12. The nations and the union  

This chapter explores the UK as a state which is made up of a number of diverse parts. These parts are Wales, Scotland, England, and the territory of Northern Ireland. Each part has its own characteristics which show through in the political and constitutional makeup of the UK as a whole. The chapter describes these different components. It discusses the various differences between them and looks at issues related to maintaining coherence. Using theoretical models, it analyses the nature of the UK as the state, the nation state, and the multinational state. It looks at the concepts of consociationalism, the unitary state, the union state, and federation. It provides a number of practical examples which demonstrate how these ideas operate in the real world. It also considers the Welsh language, territorial variation in the party system, the ‘English Votes for English Laws’ procedure in the UK House of Commons; and the ‘Barnett’ formular for the allocation of funding in the UK.

Chapter

Cover British Politics

9. Governing from Below  

This chapter studies a key aspect of delegation in British politics: decentralization and local/national self-government. It deals with local government in England, and government in the devolved territories/nations of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Decentralization in British politics has formed into a complex pattern, where there are different dynamics in the various territories: relative centralization in England, power-sharing in Northern Ireland, pragmatic devolution in Wales, and then a strong push towards independence in Scotland. For a question about how centralized or decentralized British politics is, the answer would need to be based on where a person lives, with England rehearsing the conventional arguments about constitutional centralization and the rest of the country increasing decentralization, if not a form of federalism. The chapter then assesses the question of the rationale and general stability of the system, with respect to the integrity of the UK as a whole.

Chapter

Cover Exploring Parliament

27. Parliament and Devolution  

Cathy Gormley-Heenan and Mark Sandford

This chapter examines the relationship between the UK Parliament and the devolved legislatures established in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. It first considers the impact of devolution on parliamentary sovereignty before discussing the establishment and development of the devolved parliaments in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. It then describes the key features of those devolved institutions and the way in which Parliament's interactions with them have evolved since their inception, as well as the division of powers between the United Kingdom and devolved governments. It shows that the influence of Parliament on devolution in the UK has so far been marginal, and that these subtle changes in practices at Westminster point to Parliament as an increasing reflection of wider shifts in public attitudes about the relationships between the territories of the United Kingdom, especially after the Brexit referendum.

Chapter

Cover British Politics

3. Debating Politics and Making Laws  

This chapter evaluates the institution of the UK Parliament, where parliamentarians have a chance to debate issues of the day and to make laws. It reviews classic arguments about the power of Parliament in relation to the executive, before looking at the role of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The account is still influenced by the Westminster system of government, whereby the executive in the form of the government is sustained in power by having a majority in the House of Commons. The chapter then considers what Members of Parliament (MPs) and other representatives do in office, and how their behaviour links to other features of the political process, such as public opinion and constituency interests. It also compares other legislatures, such as the Scottish Parliament, with the UK Parliament.