The United Kingdom is, in many ways, a veritable fountainhead of federalism. In Michael Burgess’s (1988) words, ‘the British have been the greatest exponents of federalism for others for well over a century’, giving federal constitutions to innumerable former colonies, some of which have proved successful and others less so. There is, as Burgess (1995) has noted, a long British tradition of federal thought. The country is manifestly not a unitary nation-state but a union of four nations, each with its own political traditions and sense of political community. There has never been a Jacobin project of the sort practised in France and (less successfully) in Spain to assimilate the peripheral nations into a single identity. The territorial constitution has been on the political agenda, with varying degrees of intensity, since at least the 1880s, with periodic campaigns for limited selfgovernment, first in Ireland and then in Scotland. Tests of opinion, whether opinion polls, referendums or elections at which it was an issue, have shown consistent majorities in the peripheral nations in favour of devolutionary arrangements of various sorts, with the singular exception of the Welsh referendum of 1979. The Liberal (and Liberal Democrat) and Labour parties have for most of their history supported self-government in theory, although Labour usually subordinated this to the quest for power at the centre (Jones and Keating, 1985).
|Title of host publication||Understanding Federalism and Federation|
|Place of Publication||London|
|Publisher||Taylor and Francis|
|Number of pages||15|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jan 2016|
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© Alain-G. Gagnon, Soeren Keil and Sean Mueller 2015.