Intergovernmental Relations and Innovation: From Co-operative to Competitive Welfare Federalism in the UK



Intergovernmental relations serve several purposes: to resolve conflicts of competence; to deal with overlaps and externalities; to harmonise policies; and to respond to new policy challenges. The United Kingdom is not a federation but an asymmetrically devolved system where the central government doubles up as the government of the largest part. This makes the application of federal intergovernmental theory problematic. At the same time, federations are tending to move from co-operative to competitive federalism. There is no case for greater policy harmonisation. On the contrary, the increased divergence between the dominant English legislative majority and majorities in the devolved territories points to increased autonomy and less harmonisation. There is scope for policy learning within competitive devolution, particularly on new policy challenges.