Scottish independence would make little difference to spatial planning policies, according to research published in a new virtual issue of The Geographical Journal.
Whilst a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum on 18 September would radically alter the political geography of the United Kingdom, geographers believe that radical, widespread policy changes are unlikely.
The Geographical Journal has been the journal of the Royal Geographical Society since 1893. This virtual issue includes a selection of articles previously published online, as well as a brand new introduction. It is free to read online for a limited period.
Dr Ben Clifford of University College London edited this virtual issue of the The Geographical Journal. He says: “There is more similarity than difference among the different territories of the British Isles. Policymakers from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and even Ireland actively share notes. So, despite the political rhetoric, it is unlikely that Scottish independence would actually make much of a difference to public policy except in a small number of high profile areas.”
This referendum is part of an ongoing process of devolution in the UK, Dr Clifford says, which began in began in the late 1990s. This reflects a global trend in which decision-making powers are being devolved to smaller territories.
“This trend towards devolution is all about recognising the unique identities and needs of different territories. There is certainly a desire to do things differently in such territories, but these ambitions are often kept in check by economics, supra-national politics and long-existing traditions.”
Civil servants often have well-established ways of working and will look to colleagues across the border for advice and ideas, Dr Clifford’s research finds. “Whilst politicians will draw attention to the headline differences in policy, there will be a lot of continuation in the inner workings of government,” he says.
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