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Devolution, Asymmetry and Europe

Multi-Level Governance in the United Kingdom


Rosanne Palmer

The process of devolution in the United Kingdom (UK) established new institutions at the sub-state level with a range of legislative and executive competencies. Yet many of these devolved powers also have a European Union (EU) dimension, whilst EU policy remains a formally reserved power of the UK central government.
This book explores how this multi-level relationship has been managed in practice, examining the participation of the devolved Scottish and Welsh institutions in the domestic process of formulating the UK’s EU policy positions during their first four-year term. It also places their experiences in a broader comparative framework by drawing upon the experiences of multi-level governance in practice in other Member States of the EU.


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CHAPTER 2. EU Policy-Making in the Pre-Devolution UK 41


CHAPTER 2 EU Policy-Making in the Pre-Devolution UK Introduction To fully understand the Impact of devolution upon the UK's domes- tic processes for formulating EU negotiating positions, it is evident that the pre-devolution policy-making processes must be examined. This chapter will therefore provide the domestic context for understanding the implications of devolution for the UK's EU policy process by de- termining the key components and characteristics of that policy process pre-devolution. In particular, the role played by the Scottish and Welsh territorial offices in this process will be considered with particular consideration of the opportunities for, and limitations upon, the repre- sentation of territorial interests and concerns. The Position of the Territorial Offices within Central Government Before devolution, the UK was regularly characterised as a "central- ised" or "unitary" state, particularly in comparison with other EU Mem- ber States (Wright, 1996: 158; Armstrong & Bulmer, 1996: 334). Yet within this apparently centralised system, there existed long traditions of administrative decentralisation, most notably through the territorial departments, with the Scottish Office being established in 1885, the Welsh Office in 1964 and the Northern Ireland Office in 1972. These arrangements, notably with regard to the role of the Scottish Office, have been depicted as those of a "union" state (Mitchell & Leicester, 1999), rather than a unitary state, because they allowed for territorial distinctiveness to be taken into account. The policy competences of the territorial offices, modest at the outset, subsequently expanded in scope, with their functions cutting across those of individual functional de-...

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