Devolution: a new fundamental principle of the UK constitution

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In an event that marked its twentieth anniversary, Tony Blair – the Prime Minister whose government delivered legislative devolution to Scotland and Wales (and who returned legislative devolution to Northern Ireland) - revealed what he believed to have been the two-fold purpose of those reforms. The first, principled, purpose was ‘to bring about a new settlement’ whereby ‘decision making was brought closer to the people who felt a strong sense of identity’; the second, political, purpose was ‘to ward off the bigger threat of secession’. Of course, these purposes are indelibly linked. First, because the ‘threat’ of secession, more pronounced in Scotland, albeit latent in Wales, is on one reading a manifestation of the desire to bring decision making closer to those who share a sense of (national) identity. Second, the prospect of secession has been a significant driver of the broadening scope and deepening entrenchment of devolution during its first twenty years. To these, we might add a third, constitutional, purpose of devolution: to bring about radical (in Blair’s words, ‘necessary’) change to the territorial distribution of power in the United Kingdom whilst at the same time preserving the indivisible sovereignty of the Crown-in-Parliament.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe New Labour Constitution
Subtitle of host publicationTwenty Years On
EditorsMichael Gordon, Adam Tucker
Place of PublicationOxford, UK.
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 14 Feb 2021


  • devolution
  • legislative devolution
  • secession


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