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  • AQA Component 1, Section Devolution: impact of devolution on government of the UK

  • Edexcel Component 2, Section 1.3: The role and powers of devolved bodies in the UK, and the impact of this devolution on the UK

Background: what you need to know 

These articles discuss different aspects of devolution, which has been put under the spotlight by the May 6 elections in the English regions, Scotland and Wales. There is a common theme: the elections have strengthened calls for more devolution and, in the case of Scotland, for independence from the UK.

The first article argues that the Westminster government has disappointed hopes of a more substantial devolution settlement in England. Metro mayors such as Andy Burnham have emerged as significant local champions but there seems little desire on the part of Boris Johnson’s government to build a constructive partnership with them. Nine city regions now have this model of government but each of the mayors possesses different powers and budgets. This is an example of the incomplete, ‘asymmetrical’ nature of devolution. Should this be taken further across England?

The second article focuses on Scotland, where the SNP has won a qualified mandate for its demand for a second independence referendum. It remains the largest party in the Scottish Parliament and, although it has fallen short of an outright majority, its call for independence is also backed by the Greens. This presents a challenge to Boris Johnson since only the UK government can authorise a referendum — something, the Prime Minister has so far insisted, he will not agree to do. Nonetheless he must devise a coherent strategy to persuade Scotland to remain within the Union.

The third article looks at Wales, where Labour has been in government, either on its own or with a coalition partner, since the granting of devolution more than two decades ago. Labour is now calling for more powers to be devolved from Westminster as the price of holding the Union together, including over policy areas which have been transferred directly from Brussels to London following Brexit.

Click to read the articles below and then answer the questions:

How soaring popularity of England’s metro mayors has hit devolution

Scottish vote lights a long fuse under the UK

Drakeford demands more powers for Cardiff parliament

Depending on which examination board you are following, answer one of the following questions.

Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 1

  • Explain and analyse three ways in which devolution has affected the governance of the UK. [9 marks]

Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 2

  • Evaluate the argument that the UK’s devolution settlement is in need of radical reform.

    In your answer you should draw on relevant knowledge and understanding of the study of Component 1: UK politics and core political ideas. You must consider this view and the alternative to this view in a balanced way. [30 marks]

    TIP: Referendums are a Component 1 topic to which you could refer in answering this question. The outcome of the 2016 EU referendum, which took the UK out of the European Union against the wishes of a majority of Scottish voters, explains why the SNP has been pushing for a second independence referendum.

Graham Goodlad, St John’s College

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