Coalition and Minority Government in Scotland: Lessons for the United Kingdom?



Cairney P (2011) Coalition and Minority Government in Scotland: Lessons for the United Kingdom?. Political Quarterly, 82 (2), pp. 261-269.

The United Kingdom general election result in 2010 produced a hung or balanced parliament for the first time in over three decades. Since the United Kingdom has limited postwar experience of this outcome, it is natural that commentators have begun to look elsewhere for lessons on the practicalities of minority and coalition government. This article considers the lessons we can learn from the Scottish parliamentary experience since 1999. It outlines two main points of comparison: strength and stability. One might assume that coalition provides more of both than minority government. Indeed, for that reason, it is rare for central or devolved governments in the United Kingdom to operate as minorities through choice. Yet, the Scottish experience shows that the differences between coalition and minority government are not completely straightforward. Much depends on the institutional context and, in many cases, idiosyncratic elements of particular systems. Consequently, one can identify a trade-off in comparative analysis: as the identification of elements specific to one system increases, the ability to draw clear meaningful lessons decreases.

coalition government; minority government; devolution; Scotland; Britain

Political Quarterly: Volume 82, Issue 2

Publication date30/04/2011

People (1)


Professor Paul Cairney

Professor Paul Cairney

Professor, Politics