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‘The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men’? Proposals, planning, defeat, and legacy, of devolution in the 1970s

Evans, Adam 2020. ‘The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men’? Proposals, planning, defeat, and legacy, of devolution in the 1970s. Parliamentary History 39 (3) , pp. 462-480. 10.1111/1750-0206.12524
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The question of whether devolved assemblies should be established for Scotland and Wales dominated considerable parliamentary time in the 1970s and became a key pillar of the Labour Government’s legislative agenda after the two 1974 General Elections. The main building blocks of the Government’s devolution proposals for Scotland and Wales were in place from 1975 with the publication of the White Paper, Our Changing Democracy. The White Paper outlined proposals for a primary law-making Assembly for Scotland and a Scottish Executive, operating under a ‘conferred powers model of devolution’. For Wales, the Assembly was to be a body corporate (with no split between Executive and Assembly) exercising only executive functions and able only to pass secondary legislation. With some important modifications (including crucially the requirement for a referendum, which was then further amended to require a Yes tally equating to 40% of the electorates in both nations), these proposals were eventually incorporated into law as the Scotland and Wales Acts 1978. While the political debates surrounding devolution in this period are well known, less attention has been paid to the practical plans undertaken by the Civil Service for devolution to become a reality. As this article demonstrates considerable time was spent drawing up, from an early stage, detailed preparations for devolution, particularly in Scotland. In Wales, planning was more tentative, yet nonetheless was taken seriously by Welsh Office. These plans never materialised in the way envisaged, with neither Welsh nor Scottish devolution able to pass the referendum thresholds put in place. However, as this article also demonstrates, both the Scotland and Wales Acts had a constitutional legacy when devolution became reality under New Labour in the late 1990s.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Department of Politics and International Relations (POLIR)
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0264-2824
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 1 November 2019
Date of Acceptance: 19 June 2019
Last Modified: 20 Jan 2021 14:12

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