Devolution : a new fundamental principle of the UK constitution

McCorkindale, Chris; Gordon, Michael and Tucker, Adam, eds. (2022) Devolution : a new fundamental principle of the UK constitution. In: The New Labour Constitution. Hart Publishing, Oxford, UK.. ISBN 9781509924646 (In Press)

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Abstract

In an event that marked its twentieth anniversary, Tony Blair – the Prime Minister whose government delivered legislative devolution to Scotland and Wales (and who returned legislative devolution to Northern Ireland) - revealed what he believed to have been the two-fold purpose of those reforms. The first, principled, purpose was ‘to bring about a new settlement’ whereby ‘decision making was brought closer to the people who felt a strong sense of identity’; the second, political, purpose was ‘to ward off the bigger threat of secession’. Of course, these purposes are indelibly linked. First, because the ‘threat’ of secession, more pronounced in Scotland, albeit latent in Wales, is on one reading a manifestation of the desire to bring decision making closer to those who share a sense of (national) identity. Second, the prospect of secession has been a significant driver of the broadening scope and deepening entrenchment of devolution during its first twenty years. To these, we might add a third, constitutional, purpose of devolution: to bring about radical (in Blair’s words, ‘necessary’) change to the territorial distribution of power in the United Kingdom whilst at the same time preserving the indivisible sovereignty of the Crown-in-Parliament.

ORCID iDs

McCorkindale, Chris ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8285-0791; Gordon, Michael and Tucker, Adam