Devolved perspectives on the UK government’s welfare reform agenda: parallel or intertwined journeys? Some initial findings

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


In 2009, the UK government emphasised that it was “deeply committed” to the maintenance of the state’s social union, embodied in a single social security system. Five years later, the future of this social union appeared less certain than at any time since the 1920s. The role of dissatisfaction with the welfare reform agenda of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government as a driver of support for Scottish independence in the recent referendum campaign – which, despite the ultimate ‘no’ vote, has led to the revision of the powers of the Scottish Parliament in fields including social security – is highlighted in the submission by Mooney and Scott. At the same time, concern in Northern Ireland at the UK government agenda has led to a delay of three years in the passage of legislation to mirror the Welfare Reform Act 2012, normally a formality due to the well-established convention of parity in social security, which has acted as a strong brake on the region’s formal devolved competence. Drawing on the findings of qualitative interviews with politicians and civil servants in both regions between November 2014 and March 2015 – a period covering the conclusion of the Smith Commission’s work on the future of Scottish devolution and the height of a political impasse over Northern Ireland’s Welfare Reform Bill that threatened a constitutional crisis – this paper considers the extent to which the two processes have reflected and/or influenced one another. Although both are devolved regions of the UK, separated by just 19km of sea, the constitutional, ideological, party political and fiscal contexts in which the welfare reform controversy has been played out in each jurisdiction differ dramatically. Emerging findings will be used to explore the extent to which the perspectives and aspirations of key actors and the ultimate outcomes on each side of the North Channel were influenced by developments on the other.
Period7 Jul 2015
Event titleSocial Policy Association annual conference 2015: Social Policy in the Spotlight: Change, Continuity and Challenge
Event typeConference
LocationBelfast, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • social citizenship
  • social security
  • welfare state
  • nationalism
  • devolution
  • social rights
  • scottish independence
  • indyref
  • welfare reform