UK governments must work together to make devolution a success

Further devolution of powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will not only radically reshape the British state, but will offer all four governments a unique chance to work together for meaningful reform – this is according to a new report launched today by the Alliance for Useful Evidence and the Institute for Government, in partnership with Carnegie UK Trust.

The report, ‘Devolution as a policy laboratory: evidence sharing and learning between the UK’s four governments’, says that there is not enough sharing of learning and best practice between the nations and argues that devolution creates great potential for all parts of the UK to test out new policies and learn from each other.

Akash Paun, lead author of the report, said: “As devolution continues across the UK, the scope for innovation is increasing significantly. This creates a great opportunity for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to learn from each other and improve the lives of citizens in all parts of the country. Political and cultural differences, and the absence of joint research and performance data in areas like education and healthcare, limits learning between the four governments.”

“We know all too well that there are no easy answers to sharing evidence across the UK, yet steps must be taken to find a more deliberate and sustained way of developing smarter policy making,’ said Jonathan Breckon, head of the Alliance for Useful Evidence. “With devolution of powers to the regions happening at an accelerated rate, I welcome today’s timely report and the conversation it contributes to.”

The report makes a number of recommendations about how this ‘policy laboratory’ could be better capitalised upon. These include:

  • increased interchange of staff between the four governments
  • the development of more consistent measurements of policy performance across the UK
  • a greater willingness to share data and evidence - including negative results
  • greater involvement of devolved governments in developing UK strategic research priorities
  • the creation of a new What Works Centre for Northern Ireland
  • more networks of officials from the four governments that work on similar issues
  • public recognition of good practice by the civil service leadership


About the Institute for Government

The Institute for Government is an independent charity working to increase government effectiveness. @instituteforgov

About the Alliance for Useful Evidence

The Big Lottery Fund, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, have come together in partnership to create The Alliance for Useful Evidence. By championing the need for useful evidence, the Alliance provides a focal point for improving and extending the use of social research and evidence in the UK. In doing so, we work with other organisations in this field to encourage debate, discussion, collaboration and innovation. Our aim is to become the hub for evidence initiatives in the UK, providing a forum for members to share good practice and avoid the duplication of work. Membership is free. To sign up please visit, @A4UEvidence

About the Carnegie UK Trust

The Carnegie UK Trust is an independent, endowed charitable trust incorporated by a Royal Charter. The Trust is one of over twenty foundations established by Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie UK Trust seeks to improve the lives and wellbeing of people throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland through influencing public policy and demonstrating innovative practice.

For more information, contact:

Nicole Valentinuzzi, Media Manager at the Institute for Government / 0207 747 0433

Associated projects: