Friday, 6 July 2012

What can UK public administration learn from the devolved nations?

an article by Richard Parry (University of Edinburgh) published in Public Policy and Administration Volume 27 Number 3 (July 2012)


Since the UK devolved administrations first took office in 1999, they have asserted their distinctiveness and identity while remaining within UK norms and traditions of public administration.

Many variables now show a balance between institutional continuity and adaptive local practices, including:
  • distinctions between the executive and legislative branches, and between ministers and civil servants;
  • control of expenditure within the UK managed total;
  • the unified Home Civil Service;
  • the position of special advisers;
  • professional networks inside government;
  • public sector integration and joined-up government; and
  • techniques of coalition formation and management.
Whether these amount to Scottish and Welsh models of public administration (alongside the clearly singular Northern Ireland model) is more contestable.

Generally the devolved administrations fall within continuing patterns of UK government, including recent concepts such as ‘public service bargains’, ‘everyday life’ and ‘policy bureaucracy’. The system has proved resilient even in the face of challenges to the UK constitutional order, especially in Scotland, where officials have advised the Scottish National Party government about their constitutional aspirations in the same way as they do for other policy areas, whether or not devolved.

Controversy over this role is a reminder that public administration is a third dimension alongside the politics of nationalism and devolution and the service-specific public policies of the devolved nations, and also a contribution to our understanding of adaptations of the Whitehall model.

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