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.
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.
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.