Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy


Devolution is the process by which a central government of a sovereign state cedes powers to a sub-national body, such as a region, state or local government. Devolution is a form of decentralisation which allows a sub-national body to make laws directly affecting its own area.

Devolution in the UK

Given the UK is a multi-national state, devolution plays a major role in the UK constitutional system. In 1998, the central Blair government passed legislation which set out the framework for devolving powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all of whom demanded some form of autonomy over their local affairs. Under devolution arrangements, Wales and Northern Ireland were granted their own legislative assemblies, whilst Scotland was granted its own parliament. The powers vested in these institutions differ between each nation, but some broad areas of devolved policy include education, health, local government, tourism and public transport.

Devolution is a particularly topical issue in Scotland, where a 2014 referendum to become independent from the UK lost by a margin of 55% to 45%. During the referendum campaign, the anti-independence movement, which was led by all three major Westminster parties, promised further devolved powers to Scotland if they chose to remain part of the UK. However, the promise of further devolution may not be enough to keep Scotland within the UK over the long run, especially after the 2016 UK referendum to leave the European Union, in which a majority of 62% of Scottish voters wanted to remain.

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