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In the News

Devolution in action

Mike McCartney

30th March 2022

Scotland and covid

  • More evidence of how the Scottish Parliament continues to plough its own tartan furrow, with the latest policy announcement form north of the border on face masks.

I have made blog entries on this very topic before. See here: tutor2u | Devolution differences: success or failure? A note on a…

Yet again, let us consider the pros and cons of devolution in action in the UK.

Maybe a good revision exercise would be to try to write down as many positive and negatives of the post nineties constitutional settlement with regards to devolution before reading further!!?

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.

What has been the negative impact of devolution?

  • Devolution is an expensive luxury in terms of the costs of setting up and running the devolved bodies:
  • The raft of different policy measures that have emanated from the devolved assemblies in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have been made possible simply as the result of the unequal distribution of public funds within the UK as allocated by the complex Barnett formula
  • Far from reinvigorating democracy, voters appear to be ‘underwhelmed’ (Curtice) by devolution.
  • Questions still remain about whether devolution will lead to the break up of Britain.
  • Participation in elections to the new arenas has been a disappointment.
  • There is tension and confusion regarding the roles of the elected representatives for different tiers of government
  • That Labour’s devolution plans did not appear to be fully thought through has become evident.
  • Devolution has not resulted, as proponents had hoped, in a new form of politics, free from the tales of corruption which are so often associated with Westminster life.

So to today's news. According to the BBC:

"Scotland's mandatory face covering rules will now remain in force until 18 April, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

She said this was due to there still being a very high level of infection in Scotland, and because masks provide extra protection.2


"Case numbers have hit record levels in Scotland in recent days, with one in 11 people estimated to have had the virus in the week to 20 March.

Ms Sturgeon said daily figures were also very high but "perhaps stabilising", with a 15% fall in daily cases over the past week.

She said there were "grounds for optimism that this latest wave of infection may now have peaked".

However she said the high levels of infection and the pressure it was placing on the NHS meant the planned lifting of the law on face coverings would be delayed until 18 April.

She told MSPs that this would be a "proportionate precautionary measure while we pass the peak of this latest wave".

This is the second time the first minister has delayed lifting the face mask laws, which had originally been due to be removed on 21 March.

All of Scotland's other legal restrictions have already been phased out."

Mike McCartney

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

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