Has Devolution to the nations of the UK been successful?

Devolution is the process of delegating power from central government to a regional or local level. This is different from federalism (which exists for example in the USA) in which power is split at source between a central government and regional governments. Britain is traditionally a unitary state in which power is held centrally and dispersed where required. However, devolution has now become politically entrenched in the UK political system and it can now be argued that Britain is in fact a ‘union state’ or ‘nations of nations’. So what is the background to devolution, how successful has it been and what are its potential implications?

How was the United Kingdom created?

Wales has been a de facto province of England since the reign of Henry VIII.

The United Kingdom is made up of the nations of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. It has developed over the course of 1,000 years into the state that it is today. Wales became integrated into the Kingdom of England between 1535 and 1542 through the Law in Wales Acts. These Acts were passed by Henry VIII and saw the Welsh legal system abolished and the Welsh language banned. The Acts saw Wales politically become a region of England. As of 1603 Scotland and England were part of a personal union in which they had a shared monarch. In 1707 the Act of Union saw England and Scotland become a single state. However, unlike in the case of Wales, Scotland retained its own legal system and the Church of Scotland retained its independence. The Act of Union (1801) then saw Ireland join the United Kingdom. However, in 1922 the Republic of Ireland left the UK leaving just Ulster (Northern Ireland) inside the United Kingdom. That is the situation as it remains today.

What is the background to devolution in the UK?

Gladstone tried, but failed to implement Home Rule for Ireland.

The concept of devolution has a long history. However, for much of its history it was called ‘Home Rule’. Home Rule was the term given for creating regional governments for the nations of the UK – particularly Ireland. Ireland’s position in the UK had always been tenuous due to its cultural and religious differences to the rest of the union. A potential answer to this was the proposal of Home Rule – giving Ireland its own Parliament and distinct levels of political autonomy whilst it remained inside the UK. Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Home Rule was the dominant constitutional issue. Eventually there were two Home Rule Bills passed, one in 1914 and on in 1920. However, neither of these bills were fully effectual due to the intervention of WWI and the Easter Rising of 1916. However, following the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 Northern Ireland saw the creation of a Northern Irish Parliament which sat from 1921 until its suspension in 1972 due to the Troubles. This shows there was a history of devolution in Britain, although it was fraught with deep-seated cultural and political issues.

In the 1970s the Labour Party, with the support of the Liberals, pushed for Home Rule (now called devolution) to be revisited. The Conservative Party, whose full name is the tellingly the Conservative and Unionist Party, was fervently opposed to the idea. In 1978 Parliament passed two Acts of Parliament (the Scotland and Act and Wales Act) that would create devolved institutions in Scotland and Wales. However, before they were carried out the issue was put to the people of Scotland and Wales in the form of a referendum:

Scotland (1979) – 51.62% of Scots agreed to devolution. However, there was a clause in the Act of Parliament that said that 40% of the total electorate would have to vote in the referendum to make it binding. However, just 32.9% of voters turned out to vote.

Wales (1979) – In Wales voters decisively rejected devolution with 79.74% of voters rejecting it.

Devolution was firmly off the political agenda under Thatcher.

These referendum results coupled with eighteen years of Conservative Government who were opposed in principle to devolution meant that it fell of the the political agenda.

The idea was revived under New Labour, however, who promised to hold referendums on devolving power to the nations of the UK. Following Tony Blair’s landslide majority of 179 seats in 1997 there referendums were held in Scotland and Wales:

Scotland (1997) – 74.29% of Scots voted in favour of devolution. The turnout was 60.4%.

Wales (1997) – 50.30% of Welsh voters voted in favour of devolution. The turnout was 50.2%.

This saw the introduction of devolution for Scotland and Wales.

What was the Good Friday Agreement and how did devolution emerge in Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland’s political landscape has been deeply divided by sectarianism for well over a century. In 1921, the Republic of Ireland became and independent nation. Ulster, the most northerly province, remained part of the United Kingdom, whilst retaining its own political identity through the granting of Home Rule.

Paramilitary groups emerged on both sides of the sectarian divide.

However, nationalist communities in Northern Ireland opposed partition, believing that Northern Ireland should be part of the Republic of Ireland. The divide was worsened by the clear religious divide. Catholic Communities in Northern Ireland overwhelmingly wished to see s United Ireland, while Protestant communities wanted to see Northern Ireland retain its constitutional status within the United Kingdom. Paramilitary groups emerged on both sides and used armed force to attempt to further their political aims. Although such groups were manifold, the two leading groups were the IRA (Irish Republican Army), who supported a nationalist cause and the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) who supported unionism.

During the late 1960s a period known as The Troubles began. Violence on both sides intensified and the British Army were deployed to Northern Ireland to try to keep the peace. However, arguably the presence of the army exacerbated the tensions. In January 1972 14 unarmed civilians were killed in the city of Derry in an event dubbed ‘Bloody Sunday’. By 1973 the situation has become so dire that the British Government suspended Home Rule and implemented Direct Rule. Throughout the period known as the Troubles it is estimated that around 3,500 people died, many of them being civilians killed whilst caught in crossfire or in planned bombings. It was not clear that there was any political solution that would solve the situation in Northern Ireland.

The Government of Margaret Thatcher made the Anglo-Irish Agreement with the Irish Government.

Despite this, both the British Government and the Government of Ireland sought a peaceful resolution to the crisis. In 1985 the British and Irish Governments signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement. This agreement accepted that both Britain and Ireland had a vestige interest in the affairs of Northern Ireland and that they would work together to find a solution. However, the agreement resulted in a upsurge of violence and it did not look like a long-term solution was on the horizon.

However, in 1994, British Prime Minister John Major and the Irish President signed the Downing Street Agreement. This declaration stated that both states were in an agreement that the people of Ireland were entitled to their own self-determination, and if the people of Northern Ireland wished it so, then Ireland would become a united nation. This was followed in August 1994 by the announcement of a ceasefire by the Provisional IRA and was followed by a similar announcements by unionist paramilitary groups.

When Tony Blair became Prime Minister he was keen to further this progress by reaching a long-lasting settlement of the Northern Irish issue. To do this, he brokered talks between Republican and Unionist leaders that resulted in the Good Friday Agreement in April 1998. The agreement stated, among many other things, that:

  • Paramilitary Units would remain disarmed
  • The Irish Republic would give up any claim to Northern Ireland
  • Northern Ireland’s future would always be decided by the people of Northern Ireland
  • New political institutions would be set up in Northern Ireland
Tony Blair and Irish President, Bertie Ahern, signed the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

It was finally put into place after referendums in Ireland and Northern Ireland which ratified its terms.

As part of the agreement the Northern Irish Assembly and Northern Irish Executive were established. The Executive is composed by a unique power-sharing method. The party strength within the Executive is based on the votes they receive in the elections and is allocated by the d’Hondt method, the same method that was used in the European Elections between 2000 and 2019.

This system guarantees that both the Unionist and Republican communities are represented in Northern Ireland. It is what is known as consociationalist government and guarantees perpetual coalition. At the top of the executive, power is jointly held by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, who are chosen each side of the unionist-republican divide. The strength of this system is that it cannot function unless the two largest parties agree to the terms of its government. However, this is also a major potential weakness, as the several breakdowns of power-sharing have shown.

What were the original devolution settlements in 1998?

There were three Acts of Parliament that created the devolved institutions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland:

The current Scottish Parliament opened in 2004.

The Scotland Act, 1998 – This created a Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Parliament (often referred to as Holyrood) is elected using the Additional Member System. The Government is led by the First Minister.

The Government of Wales Act, 1998 – This created a Welsh Assembly (now called a Parliament) and Welsh Executive (it is now called the Welsh Government). The Welsh Parliament is elected using the Additional Member System. The Government is led by the First Minister.

The Northern Ireland Act, 1998 – This created a Northern Irish Assembly and Northern Irish Executive. The Northern Irish Assembly (often referred to as Stormont) is elected using the Single Transferable Vote system. The Northern Irish Executive is co-led by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in a unique ‘power-sharing’ arrangement.

However, importantly, power was devolved asymmetrically. This means that the powers given to different regions was different. Such powers are called ‘devolved powers’. This table indicates what was devolved as per the 1998 Acts:

Act/PoliciesScotland Act (1998)Government of Wales Act (1998)Northern Ireland Act (1998)
AgricultureFully DevolvedFully DevolvedFully Devolved
Environment PolicyFully DevolvedFully DevolvedFully Devolved
Energy PolicyPartially DevolvedPartially DevolvedPartially Devolved
TransportFully Devolved for Domestic TransportFully Devolved for Domestic TransportFully Devolved for Domestic Transport
EducationFully DevolvedFully DevolvedFully Devolved
HealthFully DevolvedFully DevolvedFully Devolved
HousingFully DevolvedFully DevolvedFully Devolved
Local GovernmentFully DevolvedFully DevolvedFully Devolved
PolicingFully DevolvedFully DevolvedNot Devolved
TaxationPartially DevolvedNot DevolvedNot Devolved
JusticeFully DevolvedNot DevolvedNot Devolved

Powers which are not devolved are reserved powers that remain in the sole jurisdiction of the Westminster Parliament. Reserved Powers include military matters, foreign policy and constitutional issues.

How has devolution been extended in the UK?

Ron Davies called said devolution would be an ongoing process.

When the Acts of Devolution were passed in the 1998 the Welsh Secretary Ron Davies famously said that devolution was a “process not an event”. What he meant by this was that devolution was likely to extend through time and that the current devolved areas may be extended in the future. Davies was right and since 1998 more Acts of Devolution has been passed that have extended the devolved powers given to the institutions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Calman Commission and Smith Commissions – Two commissions took place to recommend how devolution should be extended in Scotland. The Calman commission recommended more fiscal autonomy being transferred to Scotland and the Smith Commission recommended giving the Scottish Parliament complete control over income tax rates and bands alongside a range of other policy recommendations.

2008 – Following the Calman Commission report powers were transferred to the Scottish Parliament over planning and conservation.

Scotland Act (2016) – The Scotland Act implemented the promised ‘devo-max’ to Scotland. This included devolution of onshore oil and gas, rail franchising and, most importantly, full control over Scottish Income Tax Rates in line with the Smith Commission recommendations. It also confirmed that the Scottish Government and parliament cannot be abolished without a referendum.


Government of Wales Act 2006 – This reformed the Welsh Assembly (now Parliament) and created a Welsh Government separate from the Parliament. It also mandated a referendum on further powers being passed to the Welsh Parliament.

Wales Act 2014 – This devolved more powers to Wales including over Stamp Duty and Business Rates.

Wales Act 2017 – This handed many more policy powers to Wales including over onshore oil and gas. In addition, it allowed the Welsh Government the ability to borrow up to £1 Billion and allowed the Welsh Parliament to amend income tax rates by up to 10%.

Northern Ireland

St Andrews Agreement 2007 – The St Andrew Agreement saw the restoration of the Executive and saw an agreement to devolving policing and justice to Northern Ireland. Policing was devolved to Northern Ireland in 2007 and the Justice System was devolved in 2010.

Notably, the vast majority of these Acts of Parliament were passed under a Conservative Government. This is a very clear indication that devolution is now deeply politically entrenched in the UK as the party that was opposed to it in 1998 are now explicitly in favour of it.

What are the strengths of devolution?

There are a number of potential arguments that might be made that devolution has been successful:

  1. Enhanced Democracy and Accountability

The introduction of devolved institutions which are democratically elected has undoubtedly increased democracy across the UK. This may also be considered the case because the new institutions use proportional voting systems:

Single Transferable Vote – Northern Irish Assembly

Additional Member System – Scottish and Welsh Parliament

Whilst these systems do not quite have the levels of turnout of Westminster Elections, turnout has still be relatively strong:

(C) Institute of Government

In addition, this has made politicians more accountable. For example, Scottish politicians are now responsible for the NHS in Scotland and judgements can be made on their performance in a way that was not as possible prior to devolution. Voters can more clearly have a say on the issues that directly effect them. Politics is now more bespoke across the UK and the concerns of voters can arguably be better addressed.

2. The Union remains in place but there has been a growth of cultural diversity within it

Support for the Union generally remains strong in polls. In 2018 a Delta Poll found that there was support for the current state of union across the UK:

England – 68%

Scotland – 52%

Wales – 66%

Northern Ireland – 59%

However, alongside this support for the union there has been a re-emergence of national culture and diversity across the UK. For example the Welsh language has seen a revival. It is now compulsory for secondary students in Wales. Recently it was confirmed that Mt Snowdon would be primarily known by its Welsh name – Eryri.

3. Devolution is clearly now politically entrenched and has widespread political support

It is now unthinkable that devolution will be reversed. Whilst the Westminster Parliament retains legal sovereignty, political sovereignty is now spread across the UK. All the main parties in the UK now support devolution – including the Conservative Party who had been opposed in 1998. Indeed, under the Conservative Party devolution was extended after 2010 through the Scotland Act (2016) and Wales Acts (2014 and 2017).

4. The Troubles have not re-emerged in Northern Ireland

Despite many issues with the devolution settlement in Northern Ireland one area where it has been an undoubted success is that the levels of violence in Northern Ireland before 1998 have not re-emerged. For example, in the ten years from 1999-2009 there were 84 deaths link to sectarianism including one year, 2008, where not a single death was linked to political violence. However, between 1987 and 1997 there were 745 sectarian deaths. Whilst 84 is still too many, the Good Friday Agreement and Devolution clearly had an impact in reducing political violence.

5. Devolution is bespoke to each nation and suits their current needs

A criticism of devolution that is often made is that it is asymmetrical across the UK meaning that different parts of the UK have different powers. However, this can instead be considered a strength. For example, in Wales voters have been given the choice over whether to extend devolution. In 2011 a referendum was held on whether the Welsh Parliament should get primary legislative powers and 60.3% voted for this. This was a choice they made to extend devolution giving the decision very clear legitimacy.

The Good Friday Agreement would not have been agreed if devolution of Policing had been insisted on in 1998.

Elsewhere there were areas where symmetrically devolution may not have worked. This was for example the case with Crime and Justice in Northern Ireland. This was a complex issue with a long history in which policing and justice had been politicised. Devolving this in 1998 would likely have been a step to far for Northern Ireland. However, between 2007 and 2010 it was agreed by both Unionists and Republicans that Northern Ireland was ready for devolved powers in these areas.

Overall, it is clear that devolution is slowly becoming more symmetrical through time as different nations show they are able to take on more powers.

6. It has created legislative laboratories

One of the potential benefits of devolution is the creation of ‘legislative laboratories’. This means that policies can be tested in one devolved area before they are considered for introduction elsewhere. There are some examples where this
might have been the case in the UK:

Smacking – In 2020 the ‘smacking’ of children was made illegal in Scotland. As of 2022, it will also be illegal in Wales. When considering the proposed law the Welsh Parliament relied on much of the research that had been done for the Scottish Parliament when they considered this issue. Just like Scotland, rather than introducing a new law, the Welsh Parliament decided to remove the ‘reasonable chastisement’ defence from legislation around Common Assault. This decision was taken having considered the legislation in Scotland.

Smoking Ban – In 2006 the Health Act was passed by the UK Parliament. This saw smoking outlawed in public spaces in England and Wales from July 2007. During the debate on this bill reference was made to evidence from Scotland where public smoking had already been banned before the debate took place.

Organ Donor Opt Out – In England the new system of ‘opting out’ from Organ Donorship came into effect in March 2021. However, this system had already in Wales since 2015. This gave lots of opportunity for the UK Government to assess how significant the positive impact of this policy might be.

Voting Age – In Scotland, the voting age (for devolved elections) was lowered to 16 in 2015. In 2019 the age was also lowered to 16 in Wales. This followed a consideration of the positive effects on youth turnout this had produced in Scotland.

Carrier Bags – Wales became the first country in the UK to bring in a policy that shops must charge a levy for single use plastic bags. By 2014, use of single-use plastic bags had dropped by 71%. This policy was adopted in both Scotland
and by the UK Parliament in 2015.

What are the weaknesses of devolution?

Some of the potential weaknesses of devolution include:

  1. Devolution has been Asymmetrical across the UK

Devolution has not been symmetrical across the UK, different nations have different powers. This can lead to resentment within the wider political system. For example, Scotland have had tax varying-powers since 1998 but Wales only received similar powers in 2017 in the Wales Act. However, a potentially bigger problem is the English Question and that fact that there are devolved parliaments for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but not for England. This can lead to English voters feeling left out of the devolution settlement.

2. The Barnett Formula creates economic inequality across the UK

The Barnett Formula provides for the funding for the devolved institutions. The formula works by working out spending increases/decreases in Westminster Spending and then considering the proportion of that issue is devolved. For example, this means that if the Westminster Government decided to spend more on education then more money would go to the Scottish and Welsh Governments as that issue is fully devolved. Importantly, when the money is received by the nations, they can then spend it as they choose, it does not have to link to Westminster spending.

However, the result of this formula results in disproportionate spending across the UK, with citizens in the UK having less money spent on them than in Northern Ireland and Scotland:

(C) Institute for Government
The SNP felt that the Barnett Formula saw George Osborne’s austerity being imposed upon it.

The system is also often criticised by the devolved regions. For example, in 2010 there was a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition who believed that austerity was the solution to the economic crisis. They therefore reduced spending. This consequently meant that less money was being spent in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, the SNP in Scotland and Labour in Wales did not believe austerity was the solution to the economic situation and yet they had austerity forced upon them.

3. Devolution has arguably increased the appetite for independence

There is an argument that devolution has simply made independence more. As countries have had more control over their own political decisions this has arguably led to those nations believe they are capable of full independence. Support for independence in Scotland and Wales has gone up significantly since 1998:

(C) Institute of Government

In Scotland, support for independence has risen significantly since devolution:

In Northern Ireland recent polls suggested that support for a border poll (a referendum on Northern Ireland uniting with the Republic of Ireland) is slowly growing.

Importantly, whilst there a long-term reasons for this trend Brexit has had a significant impact, particularly in Scotland. The people of Scotland voted by 63% to 38% to remain in the EU. Many Scots therefore feel that they have been dragged out of the EU against their will but would be able to re-join if they were an independent nation.

4. The West Lothian Question has never been solved and has resulted in the growth of the ‘English Question’

The West Lothian question is the term given for the fact that Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish MPs can vote on English-Only matters but that the reverse is not true. There were a number of times that this imbalance had a significant political impact:

Foundation Hospitals (2003) – Labour MPs voted against the Governments plans for foundation hospitals. This meant that English MPs voted against it by 1 vote. However, the motion passed due to Welsh and Scottish Labour MPs voted for it, even though the new Hospitals would not be introduced in Scotland or Wales.

Blair was only able to get some major English-Only policies passed with the support of Scottish MPs.

Tuition Fees (2004) – Tony Blair’s New Labour Government decided in 2004 to introduce ‘top up fees’ that university students would pay towards their own tuition. This was very controversial amongst the left-wing of his party and 71 Labour MPs rebelled against the change. However, the motion passed by 316-311 votes. This was because Scottish Labour MPs voted for the motion even though it would have no impact in their own constituencies.

David Cameron promised to fix this issue and introduced amendments to the legislative process known as English Votes for English Laws. However, even with this new process in place bills could pass or fail against the wishes of English MPs, as shown in the Sunday Trading provisions of the 2016 Enterprise Bill.

In July 2021 the EVEL process was abandoned by the Conservative Government leaving the situation back in the tenuous position that it was in 2015.

More detail can be read about the West Lothian question here.

5. Inter-Government Relationships are often fraught

Boris Johnson have to keep a working relationship despite their very different political and personal values.

Before devolution the UK was governed by a single party. There would be a Secretary of State for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales but they would all belong to the same political party. This meant there were intragovernmental relationships which were normally very straightforward. However, devolution has led to the requirement of inter-governmental relationships in the UK which can be much more challenging. This is primarily because they often come from very different positions on the political spectrum. For example, the Westminster Government is currently right of centre but the Welsh Labour and Scottish SNP/Green Governments are undoubtedly left of centre. This can lead to disagreement over issues.

6. Policy Divergence can create confusion

The significant divergence in policies can create confusion across the UK. This issue was very much apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without a central UK-wide approach it can be argued that containing COVID-19 was much more difficult. Whilst the devolved administrations were meant to be working closely together, at times this has not appeared to be happening. At the start of the crisis the four governments of the UK (British/English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish) did co-ordinate their response. However, they diverged quickly on key policies like testing, track and trace and re opening of the economy. This led to some confusion, particularly for those who cross borders for work or pleasure.

In addition, there have been disagreements about policies that were introduced UK wide. For example, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme that funded up to 80% of the wages of furloughed workers was introduced across the UK. However, this scheme ended earlier than the Welsh and Scottish Governments wanted it to, but they had no control over this area of policy. In Scotland in particular there is criticism that the current devolution settlement means that they cannot reinvigorate the Scottish economy despite being forced to shut it down due to COVID-19. They therefore believe that COVID-19 shows how they need more fiscal autonomy in Scotland.

7. Devolution has not been stable in Northern Ireland

The complicated devolution settlement in Northern Ireland requires a power-sharing agreement being made between Republicans and Unions. However, this has not always been straight forward and there have been a number of occasions when the Executive in Northern Ireland has failed and direct rule has had to be implemented:

1998-2007: The Executive was suspended four times including between 2002 and 2007. This occurred following the refusal of the UUP (the largest unionist party) to share power with Sinn Fein.

2007-11: A new Executive was formed in 2007 but did not meet between June 2008 and November 2008 due to boycott by Sinn Fein.

2011-2016: In 2015 the UUP withdrew from the Executive in protest of the activities of the IRA.

2016-2020: In January 2017 the Executive collapsed due to a dispute over a Renewable Heat Incentive policy and a related scandal. The Executive did not exist until 2020. During the absence of the Executive and Assembly the UKM Parliament legislated to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland and to legalise abortion.

Presently: As of present, there is no functioning Northern Ireland Executive after a governing agreement could not be formed following the Northern Irish Assembly Elections.

What is the future of United Kingdom?

Devolution has been by far the most significant constitutional reform every enacted in Britain. It has seen a significant change in where power lies in the UK and consequently how Politics is carried out across the nations of the UK.

Bogdanor has described Britain as a Quasi-Federal State.

Whilst legal power lies in Westminster, it is clear that politically power is now firmly dispersed across the UK. As more power is devolved across the UK it has been argued by Vernon Bogdanor that Britain is now a ‘quasi-federal’ state. However, there is a distinct imbalance within this system in which England is does not have institutional equality with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and under the current system the West Lothian question means there is legislative inequality. There will need to be some mechanism to fix this.

Both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU.

Secondly, there is the issue of whether the union remains together. In 2014 the people of Scotland had the chance to vote for independence in what then SNP leader Alex Salmond called a ‘once in a generation’ referendum. However, since Brexit, the likelihood of second independence referendum is high. This is particularly the case in Scotland where 62% of the country voted to remain and every single council area voted to remain in the EU.

The current issues over the Northern Ireland Protocol have also had a similar impact. 55.8% of voters in Northern Ireland voted to remain and post-Brexit trading issues have led to increased questioning of the current devolution settlement.

Article Summary

Devolution is now clearly politically entrenched in the UK political system. It has been extended since 1998 and it is only going to extend further in the future. However, there are a number of pressures that the current devolution settlement creates and the next decade is going to be fascinating to consider whether the current devolution settlement can remain.

Key Terms

Unitary State – A system of government in which power is held centrally, although it may be devolved by the central body. The UK has traditionally been seen as having a unitary system.

Federal State – A system of government in which power is divided between a central (federal) government and a number of state or provincial governments. The U.S.A is the most prominent example of a Federal System.

Devolution – The process whereby power is delegated to lower levels by a central body. However, this process can technically be reversed. Devolution to Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and London was introduced by Tony Blair’s Labour Government. It has since been extended to more areas in England.

‘Nation of Nations’ – The idea that the UK is now a state made up of politically sovereign co-partners.

Home Rule – The notion of devolving powers to a nation of the UK. The term has since been replaced by devolution.

The Troubles – A period of violence between nationalist and republican groups in Northern Ireland.

Consociationalist Government – A government in which power sharing has to take place.

Good Friday Agreement – The agreement brokered by Tony Blair that ended nearly 30 years of armed conflict in Northern Ireland. It said that Unionists and Nationalists would share political power in Northern Ireland.

Republican – Citizens of Northern Ireland who believe that Northern Ireland should be part of a United Ireland and not part of the United Kingdom.

Unionist – People who believe that areas should remain part of the United Kingdom.

Devolved Powers – A matter devolved for decision-making by a regional assembly.

Reserved Powers – Powers that are kept by the Westminster Government and not devolved, for example Defence.

‘English Question’ – The name for the issue created by a lack of devolution to England that may have to be resolved through the establishment of an English Parliament.

Sectarianism – Loyalty to a particular cause, in Northern Ireland it is often based around religion.

Intragovernmental – Relationships within a government.

Intergovernmental – Relationships between different governments.

West Lothian Question – The issue whereby English MPs cannot vote on devolved issues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but the reverse is not true.

English Votes for English Laws – The changes to the legislative process made by the Conservative Government in 2015 to attempt to deal with the West Lothian Question.

Fiscal Autonomy – When an entity has complete control over its own finances.

Devo-Max – A term given for the greater range of powers offered to Scotland during the 2014 Referendum. This includes the power to raise their own taxes.

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