Chapter 2 in People, Places and Policy: Knowing contemporary Wales through new localities, pp 15-40

The constitutional reform programme pursued by the Labour Government following the 1997 General Election fundamentally recast territorial politics and administration within the United Kingdom (UK). The introduction of devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the regional agenda pursued in England and the creation of an elected mayor in London challenged the already somewhat over-stated and loosely defined characterisation of the UK as a paragon of the unitary state model. Indeed, Bradbury and Le Galés (2008: 203) reflected that ‘gone are the days when the view could still go relatively unchallenged that the UK was a unitary and centralised state, mostly homogeneous and integrated despite minor territorial differences’. The legislative approach to devolution adopted by the Labour Government built a significant degree of asymmetry into the devolved settlement reflecting the contrasting pre-devolution political and institutional contexts in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Furthermore, inherent in this model of devolution was the scope for the continuous development of the legislative competencies and functions of devolved administrations. The design of the original devolved settlement within Wales provided perhaps the clearest example of this incremental approach to the further development of devolution. Indeed, it was the former Secretary of State for Wales, Ron Davies, who famously stated that devolution was ‘a process’ and ‘not an event’ or ‘a journey with a fixed end-point’ (Davies, 1999: 15). The first decade and more of devolution in Wales has provided ample evidence to underpin Davies’ original claim