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'A new phase of territorial politics in the UK' - Constitution Unit

Tom Griffin
3 July 2008

The Constitution Unit has this week produced two new contributions to its invaluable series of devolution monitoring reports.

Akash Paun and Edward Calow provide a good one-stop overview of the state of devolution across the UK:

The monitoring period includes the first anniversary of the elections and government changes of 2007 – which saw the SNP and Plaid Cymru entering government for the first time, devolution to Northern Ireland being re-established, and Gordon Brown becoming Prime Minister. Collectively, these developments have transformed the political landscape to such an extent that it is plausible to suggest that 2007 marked the beginning of a qualitatively new phase of territorial politics in the UK. In this new political environment almost all the major pillars of the 1998-99 devolution settlement are open for renegotiation, and the agenda is largely being set in ‘the periphery’. often despite the preferences of the UK Government.

Ken Clarke's proposal to deal with the West Lothian question came too late for this particular report. However, the Unit's Director, Robert Hazell, is distinctly sceptical about his plan to block Scottish MPs from taking part in the committee stage of English legislation.

Events in Wales are the subject of a report edited by Professors Richard Wyn Jones and Roger Scully:

The period covered by this report saw the coalition government of Labour and Plaid Cymru – a political alliance difficult to imagine only 12 months previously – continuing to function relatively smoothly. But early 2008 also witnessed local elections that produced further erosion of the Labour Party’s once dominant position in Welsh political life. With the retirement of First Minister Rhodri Morgan also beginning to loom ever larger on the political horizon, Wales continues to live in politically interesting times.

A chapter by Alan Trench of Edinburgh University raises a significant issue about the implications of the Calman Commission on Scottish Devolution.

A cause for concern, particularly in Wales, has to be the fact that the Commission is supposed to have a UK-wide remit, and a brief that includes financial issues, but has no Welsh members, and indeed an approach in which UK-wide issues appear only sporadically and for what look very much like partisan reasons.

I suspect that's a concern that won't be restricted to Wales.

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