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Devolution is not a "constitutional settlement" but a dynamic (and potentially destabilising) process. Explain and discuss this contention.

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Introduction

Devolution is not a "constitutional settlement" but a dynamic (and potentially destabilising) process. Explain and discuss this contention. Britain has traditionally been regarded as a unitary state. Yet since the late 1960's, developments have combined to move the nation at least some way down a path which some believe may lead to federalism. These developments have included devolution. The actual definition of devolution is "the delegation of specific powers by a higher level of government to a lower one. Unlike a federal system where the powers of the lower level are constitutionally guaranteed, devolved powers can always be taken back by the higher authority."1 One is the desire of nationalist parties in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to secure at least some form of independence from the British state which they feel is dominated by England. Following the 1997 election, Scotland has been given, not independence, but devolution which means that it has its own parliament and its own executive. Scotland is still part of Great Britain but its parliament and executive have been given significant powers in areas such as health, education and housing. These major changes are fairly recent and also, quite controversial. This issue has also divided the UK's political parties, with the conservatives opposing it, while the SNP (Scottish National Party) and Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Nationalist Party, feeling this form of devolution simply isn't enough. Devolution however, has been a common arrangement in the UK, regarding the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. There are two major differences between devolution and the federal system. One is the state can renege any devolved powers back when they choose to. The other is that the powers given can vary hugely from unit to unit. For instance, the Scottish Parliament has many more powers than the Welsh Assembly. Not surprisingly, the first state to actively seek devolution was Northern Ireland. ...read more.

Middle

Another major problem was simple geography. With its rural landscape, ultimately it was easier for Welsh MPs to travel to English cities such as Shrewsbury or even London, rather than their capital Cardiff. Nevertheless, the Labour party strongly backed the idea of a Welsh Assembly as it did the Scottish Parliament. Not only because they felt it would improve their popularity but because the British Parliament simply did not have time for detailed issues in Wales. They had one committee that dealt with Welsh issues and that had very little power. Even this was run by the party that won the most British votes, not necessarily the one that will reflect the needs of the Welsh public. Labour was also accused of corruption and nepotism in south Wales, were their local councils had such a large majority they basically remained unchecked. In the first election of the new Assembly, Plaid Cymru got 28% of the vote, an all time high for this party, never seen before. This showed that the Assembly was already a more true representation of its public, as Plaid Cymru only got 10% of the vote in the general election. With considerably less power than the Scottish Parliament many people felt this Assembly was merely a 'Mickey mouse' enterprise, being created to 'shut up' the nationalists. However, Labour argued that it was less powerful because of the split in the country, with a much weaker nationalist feeling. After the finalisation of the devolution process in both Scotland and Wales, "many observers feel that these arrangements disadvantage England and that the constitutional imbalance between Scotland, Wales and England needs to be correct through institutions representing English regions."8 With all three units still ultimately falling under the powers of Westminster, the question of fairness arose. Should the Scottish Parliament hold more powers than the Welsh Assembly? A more frequently and contentious question is, should England have its own separate legislative body? ...read more.

Conclusion

As Tony Blair says, "The era of big, centralised government is over. This is a time for change, renewal and modernity. This is the way forward. I believe that we now have the chance to build a modern constitution for the hole of the United Kingdom."14 1 Page 709 The New British Politics by Ian Budge, Ivor Crewe, David McKay and Ken Newton. Published by Pearson Education, 3rd edition 2004 2 Section C Resources for Education - A Level Study Notes by Fulcrum Publishing 2001 3 Page 256 The New British Politics by Ian Budge, Ivor Crewe, David McKay and Ken Newton. Published by Pearson Education, 3rd edition 2004 4 Page 260 - A speech by Alex Salmond - The New British Politics by Ian Budge, Ivor Crewe, David McKay and Ken Newton. Published by Pearson Education, 3rd edition 2004 5 Page 260 - A speech by Alex Salmond - The New British Politics by Ian Budge, Ivor Crewe, David McKay and Ken Newton. Published by Pearson Education, 3rd edition 2004 6 The Guardian - a speech by Alex Salmond, shortly after the referendum on devolution in Scotland 7 The Guardian - a speech by Alex Salmond, shortly after the referendum on devolution in Scotland 8 Page 56 Politics Pal by Hyperion Press 1998 9 The Independent - article published in 1999, shortly before the referendum in Scotland about devolution. 10 Section S Resources for Education - A Level Study Notes by Fulcrum Publishing 2001 11 Page 272 The New British Politics by Ian Budge, Ivor Crewe, David McKay and Ken Newton. Published by Pearson Education, 3rd edition 2004 12 Section V Resources for Education - A Level Study Notes by Fulcrum Publishing 2001 13 Page 163 The Challenge of Westminster Edited by H.T> Dickinson and Michael Lynch. Published byTuckwell Press 2000 14 The Guardian 'Tories bow to defeat but gird for battle' by Lawrence Donegan 1999 ?? ?? ?? ?? Jane Hind Governing the UK - GO204 - 1 - ...read more.

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