2020 about 2010

4 Jan 2010 by Karl Hallam

Over the festive season the media is full of reviews of the previous year, which morph into predictions for the coming year as the holiday progresses. Some revisit previous predictions and admit that their visions for the year were somewhat less than 20:20 (From our own correspondant is good for this).

Being a general election year means that there is plenty of talk about politics too, with a lot of talk about the potential for a hung parliament and the need for cuddling up to Nick Clegg. The other topic is obviously the economy, although that's not what gets discussed really. It all seems to be about the deficit and how to deal with it, as though that was the only thing that mattered.

The only safe prediction for 2010 would seem to be that there will be cuts in public spending. This need for cuts might be the thing that brings about some genuine devolution from Whitehall to local government. The question might then be will the devolution of cuts be matched by a devolution of power too? And then if local politicians get more power will they make good use of it?

We think these are interesting questions and that our work on innovation and 3rd sector relationships will become more relevant. Some councils will thrive in this period, other may struggle ...


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Reply #2 on : Thu January 17, 2013, 16:43:44
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Reply #1 on : Tue January 15, 2013, 12:15:29
Thanks for the help. Here is how it fits into the chapter: We can look back on two cotransting predictions for the fate of public policy in Scotland after devolution. First, we might have expected a lot of activity and policy divergence. The famous phrase ‘Scottish solutions for Scottish problems’ sums up the idea that Scotland has distinct policy problems that require distinctive solutions, and perhaps that these solutions can only be produced in a devolved Scotland with dedicated policymaking institutions. It also suggests (although we are asking a lot from a five-word phrase) that a shift from the absence to the presence of those institutions would produce an avalanche of new and exciting policies after devolution. Second, we might have expected a net reduction in activity, as a relatively conservative Scotland breaks free from UK government policy processes characterised by constant policy innovation. A vote for devolution may have been ‘a vote to change institutions in order to stay the same’ (Mitchell, 2005: 26–7); a way to avoid policy change driven by the UK Government, in the context of the idea that devolution in 1979 could have saved Scotland from the worst excesses of Thatcherite policies (McCrone and Lewis, 1999: 17; McGarvey and Cairney: 32-9).These cotransting visions are important reference points when we come to assess the difference that devolution has made to public policy. As with all public policy evaluation, this is not an objective process. Rather, we try to gauge the success and failure of policy by questioning the extent to which it lives up to our expectations. In the Scottish case, we either expect a great deal of change or very little; our expectations are likely to be unfulfilled if we expect a lot (as in the discussion of new politics in chapter 1) or we might be pleasantly surprised if we expect very little (which is perhaps the key to a contented life). The tendency in the Scottish policy literature is to identify unrealistic expectations, largely to point out that they were not fulfilled (see for example, Keating et al, 2003; McGarvey and Cairney, 2008: 199). It also reflects the wider finding in the policy literature that policy change tends to be incremental in most political systems. While many contemporary theories of public policy seek to explain major policy change, they do so on the understanding that it is rare; that incremental change is the norm (Cairney, 2012). Of course, ‘policy divergence’ is not the same as ‘policy change’. The former suggests that the policies of two political systems are moving, or moving further, apart, while the latter suggests that policy in one system is moving away from policy in its past. Therefore, we may have significant policy change in Scotland without it marking divergence (as when both governments pursued legislation on anti-social behaviour), or moderate change in Scotland may help produce divergence if policy changes radically in England (as when the UK Government introduced tuition fees of up to a39000 shortly after the Scottish Government abolished the graduate endowment). Further, that divergence may only be temporary – a process that we can link to an even more famous phrase ‘laboratory of democracy’ (used to describe policy diffusion across US states). In other words, policy may diverge in the short term, only to converge in the long term as each government learns lessons from the other and seeks to emulate its decisions. Or, in many cases, UK government policies have a direct or indirect effect on Scottish policies which often limits divergence or causes convergence (particularly when both governments are led by the same party). In this light, we have good reasons to hold very limited expectations about policy divergence in Scotland: few of us really believed that there would be a rush to major policy change (now that we have the benefit of hindsight); governments in all political systems face constraints on their ability to change policy; change in Scotland may not cause policy divergence; and, even if it does, that divergence may be replaced by convergence in the longer term. To explore these issues, the chapter is set out as follows .

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