Has Devolution Changed the 'British Policy Style'?


Cairney P (2008) Has Devolution Changed the 'British Policy Style'?. British Politics, 3 (3), pp. 350-372.

The term ‘policy style' simply means the way that governments make and implement policy. Yet, the term ‘British policy style' may be confusing since it has the potential to relate to British exceptionalism or European convergence. Lijphart's important contribution identifies the former. It sets up a simple distinction between policy styles in majoritarian and consensual democracies and portrays British policy-making as top down and different from a consensual European approach. In contrast, Richardson identifies a common ‘European policy style'. This suggests that although the political structures of each country vary, they share a ‘standard operating procedure' based on two factors - an incremental approach to policy and an attempt to reach a consensus with interest groups rather than impose decisions. This article extends these arguments to British politics since devolution. It questions the assumption that policy styles are diverging within Britain. Although consultation in the devolved territories may appear to be more consensual, they are often contrasted with a caricature of the UK process based on atypical examples of top-down policy-making. While there may be a different ‘feel' to participation in Scotland and Wales, a similar logic of consultation and bureaucratic accommodation exists in the UK. This suggests that, although devolution has made a difference, a British (or European) policy style can still be identified.

policy styles; devolution; majoritarian-consensus; consultation; interest groups ; Decentralization in government Great Britain; Regionalism Great Britain History; Constitutional law Great Britain

British Politics: Volume 3, Issue 3

Publication date30/09/2008
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan