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Maintain devolution

Last updated: 12:18pm 29 October 2019

We will respect the devolution settlements: no decision-making that has been devolved will be taken back to Westminster.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.31

Our verdict

Devolution” in this policy refers to the granting of powers away from central government (in Westminster) to national governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is distinct from  devolution of powers to English regions, through elected mayors  and combined authorities, for example.  Since the late 1990s, ‘devolved powers’ have enabled national governments to set their own laws in areas such as law and order, health, education, and housing. This is a promise to “respect the devolution settlements”.

We found no evidence that the government has taken back any decision-making powers from devolved institutions since the 2017 general election. However, this may change because of plans to redistribute powers taken back from the European Union after Brexit, which have been described by the Scottish government as a “power curb”.

After Brexit, many powers currently exercised at the EU level will come back under the remit of authorities in the UK. Many of these powers will be given to the UK government in Westminster. Complications arise over policy areas where EU law overlaps with the responsibilities of the devolved institutions. Giving these powers straight to devolved institutions could lead to policy divergences across the UK, so the UK government has been working to establish “common frameworks” to coordinate policies.  They have not reached agreement yet (the last update was published in July 2019).

It is true that, as promised, currently “no decision-making that has been devolved” has been taken back to Westminster. However, until the devolved institutions and the UK government have reached agreement on common frameworks, and on the legislation which will affect post-Brexit devolution arrangements, it is too soon to say this is ‘done’. We are marking this policy as ‘in progress’. Follow for updates when they happen.

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