7: Politics and Devolution in Scotland and Wales, 1999–2007

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In returning to focus on Scotland and Wales, this chapter will seek to address how devolution was implemented in the years between 1999 and 2007. It will reconsider the nature of the territorial strains in Scotland and Wales, the power politics of seeking to gain power and guide devolution in each country. It addresses the approaches of the devolved governments and the UK Labour governments in each case to ensure they achieved what they wanted. In Scotland, there was no further major constitutional legislation, although there were some transfers of additional powers. In Wales, there was another Government of Wales Act in 2006.

In examining these years, the chapter explores the extent to which the neo-Bulpittian propositions developed in Chapter 3 hold in the practice of devolution. The expectation is that rational and successful party elites in Scotland and Wales would have sought means to sustain the image of devolution making a difference, evolving, conveying the potential to continue to represent membership space convincingly. Equally, one might expect that the Blair governments, having intervened to shape the framework of devolved government between 1997 and 1999, would withdraw from direct management and seek to enjoy a relative centre autonomy. In Wales, there was an opportunity to ensure the constitutional process behind the 2006 Act was more successful in achieving support across the political class than had been the case with the Government of Wales Act 1998.

At the end of the period, in the second set of elections in 2007, the SNP emerged to form a minority government in Scotland; in Wales, Labour’s hold slipped and Plaid Cymru became a coalition partner.

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