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Shared Rule: What Scotland needs to learn from federalism

Reform Scotland’s latest report, ‘Shared Rule: What Scotland needs to learn from federalism’ is by Professor Adam Tomkins.

Professor Tomkins’s report represents the views of the author and not those of Reform Scotland.  As such, it is in keeping with the shorter pieces done by a variety of authors for our blog, the Melting Pot, and we intend to publish similar longer reports by individuals on other issues in the future.

Since it was set up in 2008, Reform Scotland has contributed to the constitutional debate by looking at how the devolution settlement, and particularly the relationship between Westminster and Holyrood, could be improved.

Initially, our work focused on what we identified as the fundamental weakness of the devolved settlement – the lack of fiscal powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament and our suggested way to address this was to give Holyrood the ability to raise far more of its own spending.  This led to a series of reports examining this issue, culminating in Reform Scotland’s proposal for Devolution Plus which called for Holyrood to be given control over the vast bulk of non- pensioner welfare spending in Scotland and sufficient tax and borrowing powers to enable it to raise what it spends.

As far as Reform Scotland is concerned, the Smith Commission recommendations and the resulting Scotland Act 2016 do not represent the end of the devolution road.  However, as Professor Tomkins points out in this report, ‘Whether or not this process (of transferring powers away from the centre to new legislatures and new governments in Edinburgh and Cardiff) has gone far enough, it is unrealistic to expect it to go very much further in the current Westminster cycle once the Scotland Act 2016 is in force.

With this in mind, 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.

Reform Scotland is delighted to publish this report because it is an important contribution to the debate from a respected authority on constitutional law.  It is part of our contribution to fostering further discussion of our constitutional future.

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