The politics of devolution
The politics of devolution

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

The politics of devolution

5 Governance beyond Westminster: the politics of devolution

5.1 The UK model of devolution

In its programme of devolution, the Labour government had to decide whether to adopt a symmetric decentralisation model, which would confer an equal degree of devolution to the UK's constituent nations, or to implement an asymmetric decentralisation model, which would grant differing degrees of autonomy to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They opted for the second model in an attempt to respond to different claims about self-determination and to react to different degrees of national identity emerging in Scotland and Wales. Asymmetry also weakened arguments for a UK 'federation' or federalism.

The UK model stands in sharp contrast with the symmetric decentralisation implemented in Germany after the Second World War, where all its Länder enjoy political autonomy, and in post-Francoist Spain, where its 17 autonomous communities are due to enjoy similar powers once the decentralisation process is completed. Devolution in the UK has been confined to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, omitting the 85 per cent of the population that lives in England.. Some argue that in the omission of English regions lies at the heart of inherent instability in the UK decentralisation model, quite apart from the different devolution ‘settlements’ already in place for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In what follows, I examine the post-1997 UK devolution process. At this point, it is worth considering that democratic-, economic- and identity-based arguments are combined and play a different part in each of the following cases.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371