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Devolution: between governance and territorial politics

Mitchell, James (2005) Devolution: between governance and territorial politics. Parliamentary Affairs, 58 (2). 287 - 302.

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In Scotland and Wales devolved governance has established an interesting paradox. Scotland, at the leading edge of devolution, has been timid in developing novel policy agendas. In contrast, in Wales ‘clear red water’ has been created, notably in health and education. In both countries, policy was entangled with constitutional development. In Scotland, a debate began on changing the electoral system for the Parliament. In Wales, the Richard Commission recommended primary legislative powers for the Assembly and replacing the Added Member electoral system with the Single Transferable Vote combined with a larger Assembly. The governing Labour Party adopted a cautious timetable on powers and retained AMS. In Northern Ireland, the Assembly remained suspended while efforts continued to secure agreement between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists, involving demonstrable IRA decommissioning and firm commitments on policing, security, and a return to power-sharing. These failed, amidst a mixture of hopeful talk and mutual acrimony. The case for democratic regional decentralisation in England was tested by a referendum in the North East. The resounding ‘no’ removed regional devolution from the political agenda for the foreseeable future, but existing regional governance remains a significant basis for public policy development.