In the article ‘The multifaceted constitutional dynamics of U.K. devolution’ Peter Leyland argues that the introduction of devolution ‘has triggered further important constitutional change.’ (Leyland, 2011) He does this by comparing devolution to federalism. After discussing devolution regarding Scotland and Wales in more detail he further explores the argument by considering the sewel convention. Throughout the article the principle of parliamentary sovereignty is the most challenging concept of constitutional law when it comes to devolution. (Open University, 2017a, 3)
The introduction of the devolution acts of 1998 caters to the separate political climates within the UK. Power is transferred from the centralised national government of Parliament to subnational governments such as the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly of Wales. Whilst Leyland admits that devolution may seem like federalism at first glance (as power is devolved to subnational governments) he argues that UK devolution is strikingly different in key aspects.
The first of these is that devolution is an asymmetrical process. Federal states disperse identical powers equally in a system that is the same for each nation, state or province. This is different to the UK in that Scotland, Wales and Northern Island all have separate systems due there being no ‘standard constitutional method.’ In place for the process of devolution. (Leland, 2011) The three countries have also devolved at various levels, with the Scottish Parliament being given most devolved powers. England has had no devolution introduced. Its important to note that devolution has no constitutional status in the UK. It is normally expected of federal states to have constitutional protection. (The Open University, 2017b, 1)
Perhaps the most crucial difference is that parliamentary sovereignty is not equally shared between devolved states, because it is wholly retained by Parliament. This makes the UK a unitary state. Leyland explains that devolution has mainly been negotiated in Westminster Parliament and that it has mostly been on their terms. It Is Parliament who decided which powers to devolve, and have the option of creating legislation in these areas regardless. It is well within the powers of Parliament to reverse the devolution process completely. It could be done with a simple Act of Parliament. (OU, 2017b, 2.1.2) Although any government which does this would likely bare the consequences at parliamentary elections. The issues surround parliamentary sovereignty will continue to be explored further on in the essay.
Scotland is the most devolved of the three nations, due to there being vast support for devolution and a nationalist sentiment. The Scottish Parliament has full law-making powers and legislative competence over issues that have been devolved, but it is limited to only devolved matters. This is the Westminster Parliament retaining its legal sovereignty. The Scottish Parliament still hold...