A key theme of this book is the transformation of a once settled system of government in the UK. We have labelled it the Westminster system, in recognition of the extent to which its institutions and powers are heavily concentrated in a small part of central London. In this chapter we will examine one of the most important ways in which the Westminster system is being changed: by the rise of newly devolved systems of government beyond the capital city. (The adjacent chapters extend this: Chapter 8 looked at the devolved system in Northern Ireland; Chapter 10 will describe how the Westminster system is also being reshaped in a less publicly noticed way, by political innovation in local and regional government.) The reshaping, and partial dissolution, of the Westminster system has taken different forms in different parts of the UK, but in this chapter I consider the experience of Scotland and Wales as a piece. This is not to suggest that the Scottish and Welsh experiences are identical. On the contrary: one theme of the following pages is the dissimilarities between the two nations. Scotland and Wales nevertheless should be examined together. One obvious reason is that devolved government was introduced into the two nations at the same moment: formally, legislation passed in the Westminster Parliament in 1998 brought the devolved institutions into existence in January 1999.
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