The politics of devolution
The politics of devolution

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

The politics of devolution

5.6 Summary of Section 5

  • In 1997, the newly elected Labour government set in motion the asymmetric decentralisation of the UK by granting differing degrees of political autonomy to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • In 1997 referendums on devolution where held in Scotland and Wales. Their affirmative outcome in favour of devolution cannot of itself deliver constitutional entrenchment, but might reinforce its moral and political legitimacy.

  • The Belfast Agreement, signed 10 April 1998, represented a major breakthrough in conflict resolution strategies. It stood for ‘the total and absolute commitment to exclusively democratic and peaceful means of resolving differences on political issues’ (The Belfast Agreement, 1998, p. 1) and endorsed consent as a principle on the basis of which the people of Northern Ireland should decide on their future.


Do you think it is still true that the experience of devolution 'has not encouraged further demands for increased power for the devolved institutions, nor prompted talk of Scottish or Welsh secession from the UK'?


As ever, Northern Ireland is a special case. But there certainly exists some feeling in Wales that the powers of the Assembly are too restrictive, not least because they are able to compare their room for manoeuvre in the past few years with what has been achieved in Scotland. And in Scotland there were some interesting polls in 2005 and 2006 in which citizens were asked for their preferences; the choices were:

  1. to scrap the Parliament;

  2. to keep the current devolution settlement;

  3. to increase the powers of the Parliament;

  4. to go for independence.

The results, with minor variations, were consistent. The least popular option was to scrap the new Parliament; maintaining the status quo attracted more support, but not as much as going for independence; and the largest preference by some way was to increase the powers of the parliament. This would seem to be evidence for the proposition that devolution strengthens the political confidence and sense of identity of regions or 'sub-state nationalisms.’.


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, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 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 prospectus