|The process of devolving power from central to more local levels of government. This can frequently involve the creation of regional assemblies with limited law-making and tax-raising powers. Devolution has emerged as a key issue in Europe in recent years with the growing size and political influence of the European Union. Linguistic and cultural minorities have increasingly begun to assert their independence more strongly and to demand that they be afforded formal political recognition (see nationalism). This change has been further encouraged by the European Union itself, as it is obliged to work to the principle of subsidiarity, whereby all decisions are taken as close as possible to those directly affected, thus making devolution a practical necessity.
All states devolve power to some degree, either because they are constitutionally required to do so, as in the case of Germany and the USA, or for reasons of practical management. In Europe, since Spain reverted to democracy in 1977 its government has devolved considerable regional autonomy to the Basques, the Catalans and the Andalusians. In the UK, Northern Ireland elected a new Assembly in 1998 and since 1999 Scotland has a Parliament with tax-raising powers, and complete control over many areas of political decision-making, while Wales has an Assembly with somewhat lesser powers. It would seem that, in Europe at least, the late twentieth-century trend towards supra-national political government has been paralleled by local demands for greater self-determination, often at the expense of the nation-state.Â (MB)
Suggested Reading Bradbury, J. 1996: New Labour. New Devolution? The Labour Party and the politics of English regional reform. Regional Studies 30: 704-12.Â Deacon, R. 1996: New Labour and the Welsh Assembly: \'Preparing for a new Wales\' or updating the Wales Act 1978? Regional Studies 30: 689-93.Â Garside, P.L. and Hebbert, M. 1989: British regionalism 1900-2000. London: Mansell.