The Civil Service in Territorial Perspective
A data-driven analysis of Whitehall and the devolved administrations.
This paper looks at the civil service(s) of the UK through a territorial lens. As debate continues about the future constitutional status of Scotland and the United Kingdom, the data presented below is designed to enhance understanding about how the machinery of government functions in the context of devolution, and how it might need to adapt as further powers are transferred from Westminster to the devolved governments or in the event of Scottish independence.
We do not advocate any particular constitutional model, nor do we test any particular hypotheses about how or how well current arrangements for devolution work. Rather, we present a range of data, along with some discussion of its relevance and implications, with a view to shedding light on the following broad questions:
- First, how do Whitehall, and particular UK government departments, relate to the devolved territories at present? What is the ‘territorial profile’ of individual UK government departments in terms of their spread of policy responsibilities and location of staff?
- Second, what civil service capacity is present in the various devolved territories and English regions at present, and what does this tell us about what might be the challenges associated with a transition to a new constitutional settlement?
- Third, how has the balance shifted over time between reserved and devolved functions in the territories (and particularly in Scotland), and what does this imply about the changing relationship between national and subnational government in the UK?
- Fourth, how similar are the UK, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland civil services in terms of demographic and professional characteristics and of staff attitudes?
We address these questions without offering comment on the potential costs and benefits of any particular constitutional settlement. We also avoid discussion of the range of potential future constitutional scenarios and how these might be made to work – though this specific issue is addressed in a parallel paper published by the Institute for Government.