Devolution ‘strengthens’ Scottish influence in EU
The devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales (and Northern Ireland) have already gained a strong bargaining position for their territorial interests in the development of European policy, particularly in relation to the controversial Common Agricultural Policy, claims a think-tank.
Meanwhile English regions risk losing out on European funding because they lack the resources and influence enjoyed by the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and have to lobby Whitehall to influence the UK’s approach to EU issues, the Economic and Social Research Council report says.
Martin Burch, co-author of the report and professor of government at Manchester University, said: ‘What has happened since devolution is that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have acquired greater policy-making resources of their own, and a clearer sense of priorities with which to influence EU policy in their territorial interest.’
Devolution has started to change the details of the UK’s EU policy, and its influence is likely to increase, he suggested. ‘It takes time for policies to change. There have already been changes in agricultural and rural policies, reflecting the interests of the devolved administrations, and there has been some input to environmental and fisheries policies.
‘So far, such examples are limited, but they are likely to increase, and this could have a significant impact on the UK’s approach to the Common Agricultural Policy and on rural development policy.’
There has so far been little sign of any change in the assumptions and values underlying European policy at a UK-wide or devolved level, but it is thought this may reflect the fact that Labour dominates in Westminster, Holyrood and Cardiff.
‘The current relationships reflect the fact that the administrations share a broadly similar approach to the European Union, and that, as a result the UK government seems happy to allow the devolved administrations to have the input they do,’ noted Prof Burch.
‘But what happens if there are changes in the parties in power in some of the parliaments and assemblies, and that trust starts to break down? That could prove a real test of the strength of the relationships between the devolved administrations, Whitehall and Brussels.’
‘Asymmetric Devolution and European Policy making in the UK’ is available from (tel) 0161 275