Last week, the Supreme Court decided that Parliament would get a vote on whether to trigger Article 50 – but devolved administrations would not. But wait a minute; what are these devolved legislatures we hear so much about?
Since Tony Blair’s New Labour was elected in 1997, the UK has undergone a process of decentralisation and has shifted from a unitary system – where all the power is held by one central administration – to a quasi-federal one.
In 1997 the Scottish Devolution Referendum was held and 74% of Scots voted for devolved powers, meaning the ability to create their own laws and, in solely Scotland’s case, set their own taxes. That’s exactly what they got and the 1999 Scottish Parliament elections saw a Scottish Labour government elected to power. Labour were able to remain in control until 2007 when the SNP, led by Alex Salmond, took the reigns. The SNP remain in power to this day, but the leadership of the SNP was transferred to Nicola Sturgeon in 2014.
This administration was created in 1999 as well, as a result of the Welsh Devolution Referendum in 1997. However, support was much weaker in Wales as only 50.3% voted Yes to the devolved powers. The Welsh too received the power to make their own laws, however, the Welsh Assembly did not receive tax-varying powers where Scotland had. The Welsh Assembly has been dominated by Labour since 1999; Labour, under the leadership of Carwyn Jones, won 29 seats in the election last May.
Northern Ireland Assembly
The Assembly of Northern Ireland was created in 1998 under the Good Friday Agreement, a key development in the peace process of the 1990s. The Assembly has the power to create legislation in areas which the government in Westminster has not legislated. In the first election to the Northern Irish Assembly, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), led by David Trimble, won the most seats; 28. However, in 2003 the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) won and have remained as the dominant force in Northern Irish politics to this day. Another election will be held in March 2017 following the resignation of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin) in protest over the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal.
Read our follow-up article for the 2017 NI Assembly Election: Northern Ireland Assembly Election 2017
Devolved Powers in Cities
Some powers have also been devolved to cities in England as part of the process of decentralisation: The Greater London Authority (GLA) is an administrative body for Greater London which elects its own executive and assembly. The current Mayor of London is Sadiq Khan (Labour) who was elected in 2016. The authority was established in 2000, by the 1998 GLA Referendum; 72% of voters supported the devolution of powers to Greater London. Most of the GLA’s powers are derived from the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and the Greater London Authority Act 2007. These are not legislative powers but powers of authority and administration.