Relative to most other European countries, the governance of the United Kingdom has tended to be characterised by a high degree of centralisation. Some areas of policy-making social security, defence have typically been managed largely or exclusively from London, with a limited degree of administrative decentralisation to regional outposts. However, this general pattern of centralised governance is complicated by asymmetric devolution to the Celtic nations in respect of some aspects of government.
For the most part, regional government in England is weakly developed. Regionally-based institutions and policy initiatives in England have been dependent on Westminster and Whitehall for their existence. In general, regional government in England has been an area of intermittent experimentation and occasional tentative interest, rather than an established feature of the political landscape.
But for the UK as a whole, reform to territorial governance, and increasing devolution of power to the Celtic nations, has emerged as potentially a profound challenge to the integrity of the UK as a hitherto largely unitary state. Indeed, the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014 potentially presaged an existential crisis for the UK as currently constituted. Whilst electors voted by an unexpectedly narrow majority to reject independence, apparently limited levels of support for the status quo nevertheless prompted far reaching questions about the future of territorial governance in Britain.
The report begins by explaining in brief the broad lineaments of the constitution of the UK as it relates to regionalism, before examining the historical approach to regions in England. One way of chronicling the evolution of regionalism is in terms of its political and economic dimensions. These are typically separate, but occasionally combine as in the Blair government’s abortive regional project of the late 1990s and 2000s.
The subsequent section of the report, therefore, summarises in broad terms the historical trajectory of political regionalism, focusing in particular on policy and governance developed for the English regions, in a wider context of reform relating to the government of the four national territories of the UK as a whole. Complementing this is discussion of the experience of economic regionalism and the array of recent subnational territorial initiatives aimed at improving economic circumstances.
This provides some of the context for the subsequent part of the report, which details contemporary experience of regional governance and policy, outlining the abandonment of much of the inherited regional institutional infrastructure and its replacement after 2010 with a series of new initiatives focused principally on inducing economic growth. The report concludes by considering the prospects for the future evolution of regional governance and policy in Britain.
by Iain DEAS & Lee PUGALIS
For the full report on the UK, see here.
The Report on the state of Regionalisation in Europe.
More than 40 experts contributed to this work, by delivering detailed reports about the state of regionalisation and multilevel governance in chosen European countries. The study covers 41 countries, and each country report is based on a similar structure, thereby allowing a comparative approach among all studied countries.
- The first part of the report gives the political impetus from the main European stakeholders
- The second part of this report entails a summarised version of the country reports. The objective is to provide interested readers with a short overview of the main features of regionalisation in various European countries. The complete versions of the country reports are available on the AER website, under LINK
- The third part provides a thematic approach based on the main findings delivered by the country reports and the current state of regionalisation in Europe. The trends and outlooks lead to open questions on the future of the regions in the European landscape, and more broadly on the role of subnational authorities in the shaping of the continent.
- The fourth part gives the floor to the actual regional decision-makers in Europe, across a series of interviews and statements by Presidents, Vice-Presidents and elected representatives of the European regions.
Over the next months, we will be focusing on a different European country’s approach to regionalisation. During these months, look out for #RoR2017 on Twitter and/or Facebook and follow us at @europeanregions.
Strong European regions are a pathway to a stronger Europe.