Intergovernmental Relations in Scotland: what was the SNP effect?

Paul Alexander Cairney

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15 Citations (Scopus)


In Scotland, the formation of a minority government in 2007 by the Scottish National Party (SNP) provided the potential for profound changes in intergovernmental relations. This followed eight years of a Scottish Labour-led coalition government characterised by a low key and informal relationship with the UK Labour government. From 1999-2007, discussions were conducted informally and almost entirely through political parties and executives (ministers and civil servants). Although formal mechanisms for negotiation and dispute resolution existed - including the courts, concordats and Joint Ministerial Committees - they were used rarely. The Scottish Executive also played a minimal role in EU policy making. Yet, an ‘explosive’ new era of relations between the Scottish and UK governments did not arrive in tandem with the new era of party incongruence. The aim of this article is to explore these issues by asking two main questions: why were formal mechanisms used so rarely from 1999-2007, and what factors have produced muted rather than problematic IGR since 2007?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-249
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
Issue number2
Early online date3 Apr 2012
Publication statusPublished - May 2012


  • intergovernmental relations
  • policy communities
  • asymmetry
  • minority government


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