Politics

What Does Devolution In The United Kingdom Mean?

Devolution refers to the statutory granting of powers from the UK Parliament to the governments of the countries of the UK.

Devolution is a process of decentralizing the government and giving more power to the local administration. Since 1999 the UK has been devolved its powers to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which alongside England makes up the United Kingdom. In the UK, devolution means the transfer of power and decision making from the UK parliament in London to the assemblies in the respective countries.

Background To Devolution

In September 1997, Wales and Scotland held referendums to establish the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Parliament. A majority voted for the establishment of the two assemblies. In May 1998, Northern Ireland also held the referendum, and a majority voted in favor. Following the endorsements, the UK parliament passed the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the Scotland Act 1998, and the Government of Wales Act 1998. The latter was later superseded by the Government of Wales Act 2006. The three legislatures possess some powers previously held at Westminster. The UK power retained the power to amend the acts and legislate on any issue arising from devolution with the consent of the devolved legislatures. There are several differences between the parliament and the devolved legislatures; among them is how members are elected to either house. Members of parliament are elected based on first-past-the-post while members of the devolved legislatures are elected based on proportional representation.

Devolved Administrations

Just like how the government is formed by members of the two Houses of Parliament, the developed legislatures nominate ministers to the executives referred to as the devolved administrations. The Scottish government consists of majority members of the Scottish National Party. The Welsh government is formed by the labor party while the Northern Ireland Executive is formed by a coalition of five parties. The official of the administrations do not serve the UK government and are not answerable to the Prime Minister. They are answerable to their own ministers and work to fulfill their territorial priorities and mandates. Within the UK government Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland are each represented by a territorial secretary of state who ensures that the devolution between the government and the administrations are running smoothly.

In 2012 an MOU was signed was agreed upon by the devolved administration and the UK government. The Memorandum set out the principles that support the coexistence of the administrations. The principles focus on good and open communication, co-operation and consultation. The MOU was accompanied by an agreement by the Joint Ministerial Committee which provided protocols on avoidance and resolution of conflicts, International Relations, Concordats on the coordination of EU policies, and Financial assistance.

Some of the core functions devolved include agriculture, education, health, housing, local governments, and transportation. Powers still held by the government include security, the constitution, energy, immigration, pension, foreign, and policy. Some issues such as taxation remain contentious among the devolved governments and the government. The Brexit vote has left the UK divided after England and Wales voted in favor while Scotland and Northern Ireland voted against leaving the EU.

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