IFG - New IfG analysis: what are the scenarios for governing after the referendum?

11 Sep 2014 11:18 AM

As campaigning draws to a close the Institute for Government today releases its second paper in its Governing after the Referendum project examining future scenarios for Scotland and the UK.

We look at no fewer than 16 different possibilities (10 for Scotland, four for Wales and two for Northern Ireland) in the event of a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’ vote following the vote on September 18. 

After outlining the varying scenarios, we analyse the governance challenges and implications, both for the devolved nations and the remainder of the United Kingdom.

Following on from our previous paper, The Civil Service in Territorial Perspective, which outlined the size and type of Civil Service presence throughout the UK, one of the chapters in our latest report considers the effect of a ‘Yes’ vote on each Whitehall department,  and what new capacity would be required in Scotland and at intergovernmental level.

As the Institute has previously noted, Whitehall departments vary widely in how they would be affected by independence. Health and Education are already devolved.

However, HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions would face a major impact if the ‘Yes’ campaign wins, as they both provide services, and have significant numbers of staff, north of the border.

Conversely, both the Treasury and the Foreign Office have a UK-wide remit, but little presence in Scotland. If voters opt for independence the Scottish Government will need to create extra capacity in these vitally important areas.

If voters decide to stay in the Union, further devolution, particularly in the areas of taxation and welfare, is now inevitable. Narrowing polls have led to promises of increased powers for the devolved administration.

As our paper discusses, however, there are important differences between the existing proposals of the three unionist parties. Significant compromises will therefore be needed to form a joint platform.

Importantly, we do not make any predictions about Scotland’s referendum result nor which constitutional option in any part of the UK should choose.

Our focus is on how government, the Civil Service and intergovernmental relations will need to adapt to make succeed in the new constitutional landscape after September 18.

We will return to these themes in the final report of the ‘Governing after the Referendum’ series, due before Christmas.

Peter Riddell, Director of the Institute for Government, said: “It is now clear that a no vote in the Scottish referendum on 18 September would not leave the status quo in place, but would lead to far-reaching changes in the extent of devolution. But several different proposals—nine in Scotland alone if there is a no vote- are on offer with sharply varying tax and spending implications for both Scotland and for the UK generally. This timely report examines the implications of the numerous possible scenarios either if there is a yes vote or a no. The result is certain to mean big changes for both the UK and Scottish Governments.”

Akash Paun, Fellow of the Institute for Government and lead author of our new report, said: “This week’s dramatic narrowing of the opinion polls has spurred the unionist parties to clarify their devolution offer in the event of a No. The big area of change is set to be an expansion of the tax-raising powers of the Scottish Parliament – but up till now Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have had different views on far to go. The big question is whether they can reach a credible compromise position that they can all live with, and that goes far enough to satisfy the desire of Scotland’s voters for a more powerful Parliament.”

Associated documents: