Our major study of devolution in the UK has focused on how to provide effective government in the context of an increasingly complex and fluid constitutional settlement. Our final report, Governing in an Ever Looser Union, discusses how the UK’s four governments co-operate, negotiate and compete.
We found that even amidst severe political disagreements – such as during the Scottish independence referendum campaign – civil servants can communicate and co-operate in good faith. But there is also evidence of weaknesses in current arrangements. There have been disputes over legislation, money, welfare and energy policy, and failures to consult or share information. And constitutional thinking remains fragmented – Westminster and Whitehall deal separately with each part of the UK, insufficiently reflecting on how the different settlements relate to one another.
We therefore argue that reform is required to:
- create a more joined up and strategic approach to managing the constitution as a whole
- improve awareness of devolution and territorial difference in the policymaking process
- strengthen the joint ministerial committee system
- take steps to enhance interchange of staff and information between the UK and devolved governments