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Devolution: comparative development and policy roles

Mitchell, James and Bradbury, J. (2006) Devolution: comparative development and policy roles. Parliamentary Affairs, 57 (2). pp. 329-346.

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In Scotland, after an early focus on the policy-making process, the agenda concentrated on distributive policies priorities; redistributive policy remained largely at Westminster. In Wales, there was similar concentration on distributive policies, but the Richard Commission will return process to the agenda. The 2003 election allowed Labour to form a single-party Executive and, with looming fiscal constraint, Labour is expected to concentrate on popular distributive policies in the second half of the term. In Northern Ireland, devolution has been more about sustaining the peace process and constitutional politics; other matters took a poor second place. Devolution remained suspended in 2003; talks failed but new elections were held, with victory for the Unionist DUP and the Nationalist Sinn Fein; power-sharing prospects diminished but the peace process held. In England, the focus has been on developing Regional Development Agencies, Government Offices and Regional Chambers. Three northern regions will hold referendums on elected assemblies in 2004. Devolution remained strongly gradual and cautious. Constitutional debates were couched in terms of practical objectives and immediate policy roles continued to dominate devolution.