Daily Archives: September 11, 2012

Pressure Politics and the ‘Scottish Policy Style’ Explained

Well, what better way to celebrate Andy Murray’s US Open win than to read about group-government relations in Scotland after devolution?  I am co-authoring a second edition of ‘Scottish Politics’ with Neil McGarvey. It will appear in 2013. It includes a significantly revised chapter on ‘pressure politcs’, updated to include the post-2007 SNP era.  The main argument is that, while we can identify a ‘Scottish Policy Style’, we should not assume that Scottish and UK policymaking processes necessarily differ.  Or, if they do, it may be more to do with Scotland’s size and the Scottish Government’s capacity than a new culture of openness or Scotland’s ‘consensus democracy’ institutions.   It focuses on Scotland, but has some things to say about the often-mistaken assumptions we make about UK policymaking (a point expanded on, for example, here – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1478-9302.2011.00233.x/abstract)(email me if you are struggling for access to the article). 

I have copy and pasted the introduction below and you can find the rest here:

“Chapter 5 suggests that the Scottish Parliament did not foster new and effective forms of deliberative and participatory democracy. It highlights the similarities between the Westminster and Holyrood systems and argues that, in both, most policy is formulated outside the legislative arena following regular consultation between govern¬ments and pressure participants such as interest groups. This chapter examines the extent to which that process of policymaking is distinctive in Scotland following devolution. In other words, is there a ‘Scottish Policy Style’? Policy style refers simply to the ways in which governments make and implement policy (Richardson, 1982). It has two dimensions: the way that governments make policy, in consultation with pressure participants; and, the way that they implement policy in partnership with organizations such as local authorities (discussed at more length in chapter 10).

We can identify some hopes for ‘new politics’ in this area, linked to the idea that Scotland is a ‘consensus’ rather than a ‘majoritarian’ democracy (box 7.2). The SCC proposed, albeit in a rather vague way, a new type of pluralist democracy in which consultation with affected interests would be as wide as possible, not only with established interest groups but also previously excluded groups with a limited voice and ability to organise. This push for broader consultation is associated with a monitoring role performed by Scottish Parliament committees who may oblige the Scottish Government to consult far and wide until they are satisfied that all groups have ‘had their say’. This would perhaps help produce a new and improved consultation process between the Scottish Government, Scottish Parliament and a wide range of representative organizations in the community, voluntary sector, professions and business. This inclusion of hitherto excluded sections of society would come at some expense to the ‘usual suspects’, or the larger and better resourced groups which tend to dominate consultation time with government.

The tone of much of these recommendations is based on the idea that new forms of consultation would take Scotland further away from UK policymaking which is relatively ‘top-down’ and based either on a lack of proper consultation or consultation restricted to a small number of powerful groups that squeeze out the competition. Yet, much of the policymaking literature suggests that this image of the UK is a caricature based on minimal evidence. Scotland may have its own policy style, but this is often related to factors unrelated to ‘new politics’ (such as Scotland’s size and the scale of its responsibilities). The recommendations are also perhaps based on the assumption that there can be a Scottish-specific arena in which pressure participants can engage. Rather, organised groups must consider how best to influence policy in an era of ‘multi-level governance’ in which many levels and types of government are involved, from the European Union to local authorities (chapter 9). Further, the role of local authorities has changed since 2007 (chapter 10), prompting many groups to reassess their lobbying strategies.

This chapter discusses:

• The meaning of ‘pluralist democracy’ and the SCC hopes for a new Scottish Policy Style.

• The nature of pressure politics in Scotland.

• The evidence of a difference between Scottish and UK policy styles.

• The strategies of interest groups in Scotland who are faced with uncertainty in the era of multi-level governance.

• The impact of SNP Government since 2007.”

Leave a comment

Filed under public policy, Scottish politics, Uncategorized