After the referendum inter governmental relations in the uk in the event of a no vote
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After the Referendum Inter-governmental relations in the UK in the event of a NO vote. Dr Nicola McEwen, University of Edinburgh Associate Director ESRC Scottish Centre on Constitutional Change. Defining IGR.

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After the Referendum Inter-governmental relations in the UK in the event of a NO vote

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After the ReferendumInter-governmental relations in the UK in the event of a NO vote

Dr Nicola McEwen, University of Edinburgh

Associate Director

ESRC Scottish Centre on Constitutional Change

Defining IGR

‘the working connections that tie central governments to those constituent units that enjoy measures of independent and interdependent political power, governmental control and decision-making’ (Agranoff, 2004: 26)

Why IGR?

  • Consequence of division

    of constitutional competences

    • Shared powers/functions

    • ‘spillover effects’

  • Nature of policy problems & integrated approach

    to resolving them

    • EG ‘poverty’, ‘economic growth’, ‘security’, etc

  • Intergovernmental finance – vertical fiscal imbalance

  • Europeanisation

    • EU policy-making/shaping;

    • implementing EU directives

Factors Shaping IGR

  • Constitutional settlement and structure of government

  • Financial climate

  • Political/legal culture and role of the courts

  • Party political composition of government

  • Policy sphere:

    • policy convergence/divergence; policy priorities

    • extent of Europeanisation; inter-dependence

  • ‘the human element’ (Wright) – the activities, attitudes, personalities and perceptions of those individuals holding office


  • Formal machinery of IGR

    • Joint Minister Committee – plenary and domestic

    • British-Irish Council

  • BUT - emphasis on informality – concordats, Memorandum of Understanding > low level of ‘institutionalisation’

  • Central co-ordination role of civil service as ‘oil and glue’

  • Comparative low level of judicializationin UK politics > minimal role for the courts

  • Lack of intra-government centralisation of IGR, inc. through territorial offices of state


  • Constitutional asymmetries across the UK >

    • hierarchical IGR – dominance of central govt

    • bilateral IGR – minimal scope for multi-lateral collaboration

  • Pre 2007 - benign fiscal climate & party congruence facilitated co-operation/absence of conflict

  • 2007-2010 – political opposition and ‘intra-territorial’ competition diminished trust and access

  • 2010 – ‘respect agenda’ partially eroded by:

    • austerity

    • BIG constitutional politics

Proposals for Changes to IGR – ILib Dems

  • Home Rule and Community Rule Commission

    • gradual process towards ‘home rule all round’ in a ‘federal union’

    • enshrine principle of ‘mutual respect’ as a constitutional obligation

    • eventual integration of territorial ministries into a dept for constitutional affairs, and for the nations and regions

    • creation of third category of powers – ‘partnership powers’ - to ensure joint working between governments (e.g. energy, strategic welfare policy, cross-border transport, marine, skills & employment)

    • legal obligation to consult, but with ‘power of initiation’ in partnership policies

    • Enhanced role for the Supreme Court in formal dispute resolution

Proposals for Changes to IGR – IILabour Party

Devolution Commission

interim report

  • Emphasis on central-local relations within Scotland

  • Constitutional rights for local government

  • Hint at recommendation for more formality:

    “No formal machinery for inter-governmental relations will ever prevent disagreements: disagreement is the very stuff of politics. Nevertheless, in our view, the mechanisms for inter-governmental relations need to be further developed at all levels. We welcome further thoughts from interested groups and stakeholders on this issue and on how the necessary improvements might be achieved.”

  • Calman commission:

    • mutual respect between as ‘guiding principle’

    • enhanced role and breadth of JMC, inc formal co-ordination among officials

    • strengthened co-operation between Scot Parl & Westminster, inc committees, with enhanced parliamentary scrutiny of IGR

Prospects for Post Referendum IGR


Depends on result:

strong YES vote > enhanced influence

weak YES vote > lost leverage

Depends on campaign conduct

lasting impact on trust and inter-personal relationships?

Depends on response:

Prevalence of goodwill and mutual respect?

Scotland off radar?

Effects of continued austerity


  • Scotland Act 2012 > some changes:

    • e.g. Joint Exchequer Committee – ongoing role?

  • Continuity of JMCs

  • Enhanced role for BIC unlikely

  • Multi-lateral approach to constitutional reform?

  • Prevalence of bilateralism more likely

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