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In the News

Devolution continues to blaze a policy trail

Mike McCartney

10th January 2023

The 20mph speed limit

Over recent days newspaper coverage has included details of some divergent policy ideas emanating from the Celtic fringes. One of the arguments in favour of devolution is that they act as 'laboratories of democracy', a phrase the US judge Louis Brandeis coined early in the 20th century with regards to federalism in that country. As such, the can act as Petri dishes in a lab, trying out new policy ideas. And if successful, they can be replicated elsewhere in other regions. The success of the smoking ban in public in Scotland is one such example.

This is in my notes as an advantage of devolution in the UK here...

What has been the positive impact of devolution?

  • Democracy has been enhanced within the UK since government is much more region sensitive:, e.g. the congestion charge in London
  • On a separate but related note, the new legislatures act as policy laboratories - e.g. the Scottish first smoking ban
  • The electorates within the devolved regions accept devolution and express the view that it is the preferred system of government.
  • Despite increases in support for the nationalists in Scotland support for independence has never been a sustained majority
  • Within England the vast majority want Scotland and Wales to remain in the Union, thus there has been no English ‘backlash’.
  • The use of proportional electoral systems in the new assemblies has resulted in UK politics becoming much more pluralistic.
  • Devolution has boosted the representation of women in comparison with Westminster.

Another could be plans to introduce a default 20mph speed limit for road users in built up areas. Although a bill failed in the Scottish Parliament recently, moves are in place for this to take effect in Wales from September.

News of the Holyrood bill is here in the I

Details from the Welsh Senedd are here. And a small YouTube clip...

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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