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In the News

Devolution in action: London's ULEZ

Mike McCartney

1st December 2022

Example of devolution success?

This week it was announced by the Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, that the emissions one covering inner London would be expanded to cover the whole of the capital.

As The Guardian reports:

"London’s ultra-low emission zone will be expanded across the entire capitalfrom next August, a move that the mayor said would bring cleaner air to 5 million more residents.

Drivers of older, polluting cars will have to pay £12.50 a day to use their vehicle across Greater London from 29 August 2023.

An improved £110m scrappage scheme will be introduced to help vulnerable people and small businesses, and there will be more buses in the suburbs.

The mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced the start date after a summer consultation on the scheme. It has been welcomed by green groups, clean air campaigners and some businesses, although Conservatives have opposed the charge and said most people in outer boroughs do not want it."

After a consultation by the previous Mayor, Boris Johnson, Khan introduced the scheme, the first of its kind, in 2019. This came nearly twenty years after the first Mayor, Ken Livingstone, brought in the congestion charge - with London being the biggest city up until that point to charge drivers. (Technically the congestion charge wasn't a devolution policy, but without the Greater London Authority's strategic oversight, it would have been impossible to implement across a number of London boroughs, so it is an effect of devolution.)

So can we see this groundbreaking move to add as a policy example to our list below (i.e. to either of the first two points)?

What has been the positive impact of devolution?

1. Democracy has been enhanced within the UK since government is much more region sensitive:, e.g. the congestion charge in London

2. On a separate but related note, the new legislatures act as policy laboratories - e.g. the Scottish first smoking ban

3. The electorates within the devolved regions accept devolution and express the view that it is the preferred system of government.

4. Despite increases in support for the nationalists in Scotland support for independence has never been a sustained majority

5. Within England the vast majority want Scotland and Wales to remain in the Union, thus there has been no English ‘backlash’.

6. The use of proportional electoral systems in the new assemblies has resulted in UK politics becoming much more pluralistic.

7. Devolution has boosted the representation of women in comparison with Westminster.

Mike McCartney

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

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