Devolution: Definition

Devolution: Definition

Definition and Origin

  • Devolution is the statutory delegation of powers from the central government of a state to govern at a subnational level.

  • The process creates semi-autonomous bodies (such as the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, and the Northern Ireland Assembly) which have the power to legislate on certain issues.


  • The aim of devolution is to give more power to people locally, ensuring decisions are made closer to the regional level.

  • It enables central government to concentrate on areas of policy best administered on a national basis while allowing regional governments to address local concerns.

Implementation in the UK

  • Devolution in the UK came into effect under Tony Blair’s Labour government. The Scotland Act 1998, Government of Wales Act 1998, and Northern Ireland Act 1998 were instrumental in this process.

  • It did not apply to England on the basis that English votes already make up the majority in the UK Parliament. Some calls have been made for English devolution to balance representation.

Policy Jurisdiction

  • Devolved powers differ in each region based on the agreements made. However, common areas often include health, education, and transportation.

  • Reserved powers (such as foreign policy and defence) remain in the hands of the UK government at Westminster.

Remember: Devolution allows for regional variation in policy, reflecting the particular needs, priorities and policy preferences of the different parts of the UK. However, it poses challenges concerning the management of the economy, particularly with regard to financial matters and taxation.