Professor Tomkins calls for fresh thinking throughout Whitehall on how the United Kingdom should conceive of its territorial politics

Reform Scotland, the independent non-party think tank, has published a report under its Melting Pot banner, written by Professor Adam Tomkins on the subject of “Shared Rule: What Scotland needs to learn from federalism”. This is the first longer report published under this banner and is in keeping with the shorter pieces done by a variety of individuals for the blog which represent the views of the author and not Reform Scotland.

Professor Tomkins is the John Millar Professor of Public Law at the University of Glasgow and tops the Conservative Party’s ranking for the Glasgow regional list in May’s Holyrood election.

Professor Tomkins, who was one of the Conservative Party’s representatives on the Smith Commission and more recently has advised the Scotland Office on the Scotland Bill, says in his report that:
  • the UK government needs a Department for the Constitution (or Union), amalgamating the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Offices, the Cabinet Office and the DCLG
  • the UK’s intergovernmental machinery is overly dominated by the UK Government and lacks transparency
  • public expenditure from London, such as City Deals, can influence and shape public policy even in devolved areas
  • arrangements for shared rule in areas such as tax and welfare should be put on a statutory basis alongside devolved powers and reserved powers

Professor Tomkins’ full paper can be read here. In it, he writes:

“Devolution is here to stay and, whether one looks to Scotland, to Wales or to the city regions of Northern England, it seems set not merely to stay, but to deepen and grow.

“Thus far in the short history of devolution in Britain, we have done as if a power is either devolved or reserved. On this understanding there is no meeting point, no middle ground, no power that is partly devolved and partly reserved, no power that is shared. Even if this limited understanding of devolution has been sufficient to make sense of it since 1999, it will soon prove inadequate. A new category of powers will come to the fore – shared powers. This may be new for the United Kingdom but it is routine in federal countries.”

Professor Tomkins goes on to write:

“Whitehall’s knowledge and understanding of devolution is woeful and the Scotland and Wales Offices are so small that they lack the weight to have the influence they deserve in ensuring that the UK Government machine reflects the modern, devolved state.”

In proposing a statutory footing for shared rule, overseen by the new Department for the Constitution, Professor Tomkins writes:

“There is a great deal in it for both UK and Scottish Ministers. For Unionists in London the sharing of power is a great way of embedding the Scottish Government more deeply in the fabric of the devolved British state. For Nationalists in Edinburgh, the sharing of power is a great way of showing that Scotland can lead in innovative policy development.”

Geoff Mawdsley, Reform Scotland’s Director who wrote the foreword to the paper, said:

“Reform Scotland is keen to widen the debate and to look at other ways in which the relationship between Westminster and Holyrood might be improved. In particular, we are keen to look at federal structures and asked Professor Tomkins in his report to examine federal systems in other countries to see what lessons we might learn from them in relation to the concept of shared rule.

“Although Professor Tomkins’ report does not represent the views of Reform Scotland, we are delighted to publish it under the Melting Pot banner because it is an important contribution to the debate from a respected authority on constitutional law.”


  1. Shared Rule: What Scotland needs to learn from federalism can be read here.
  2. Reform Scotland is an independent, non-party think tank that aims to set out a better way to deliver increased economic prosperity and more effective public services based on the traditional Scottish principles of limited government, diversity and personal responsibility. Further information is available at www.reformscotland.com
  3. The Melting Pot is Reform Scotland’s guest blog page and, in future, further longer reports will also be published under this banner. It is where Scotland’s thinkers, talkers and writers can indulge in some blue-sky thinking. It is, therefore, a forum for debate on public policy and posts do not represent Reform Scotland’s views.
  4. Media contact: Message Matters (Andy Maciver 07855 261 244 or Peter Duncan 07740 469 949)