British Devolution and the Labour Party: How a National Party Adapts to Devolution



In 1999 the Labour government in the UK devolved significant powers to the newly created Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales. This article concludes that the British Labour Party, as a national party, has not formally reorganised itself to reflect the new realities of devolution. Rather, the national ruling elite has continued to stress the importance of maintaining the valuable Labour brand to ensure the electability of the party at Westminster and retain the possibility of using party links to co-ordinate policy on devolved matters across Britain. Even so, the regional Labour elites in Scotland and Wales have acquired the freedom to make significant strategic choices in terms of policy and electoral strategy. However, these choices are ultimately constrained by tacit, intra-party understandings and ‘rules of the game’.