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Devolution at 20

A comprehensive analysis of how devolution has worked in the UK.

Devolution graphic

On the 20th anniversary of UK devolution, this report says Brexit has put the relationship between the UK nations under serious pressure – but there are other big unresolved questions too.

Devolution at 20 is a comprehensive analysis of how devolution has worked in the UK. It argues that devolution has been a qualified success in its first two decades.

The devolved institutions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are now established as permanent features of the UK constitution, while devolution has allowed greater democratic expression and policy innovation in all three nations.

However, the report identifies big challenges for the future of devolution:

  • The UK Government and devolved administrations must agree on how to manage the powers repatriated from Brussels because of Brexit.
  • The UK and devolved governments have clashed over the rules of their relationship when Westminster has legislated without devolved consent.
  • Funding arrangements of the devolved nations have grown complex and incoherent.
  • The 2017 collapse of power-sharing in Stormont has destroyed democratic accountability, and paralysed policy making.
  • The Welsh Assembly has too few members to manage its new responsibilities for legislation well.
  • England has largely been ignored in the devolution process.

There has been too little consideration of the future of the UK as a whole while devolution has advanced in different parts of the country. The lack of guiding principles has led to disagreement about the post-devolution constitution. Brexit has made it more urgent that governments and political parties address these big questions be addressed by the governments and political parties.

Our work on 20 years of devolution is supported by The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd. 

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