Scottish Politics

Second edition

by Paul Cairney

Chapter 8: Pressure Politics and the ‘Scottish Policy Style’

The ‘Scottish Policy Style’ refers to the way it makes and implements policy. One aspect of the process relates to consultation and the idea that devolution has given greater access to (and opportunity to influence) ministers and civil servants in Scotland since devolution. This relates, to some extent, to the new culture of ‘new politics’. However, it may relate more to the limited research capacity of the Government, which causes it to rely on interest groups and organisations such as local authorities, and other factors such as the favourable economic climate following devolution. While the influence of groups in Scotland is superior to the pre-devolution Scottish Office experience, the difference between consultation styles in Scotland and the UK is often exaggerated. The ‘logic of consultation’ suggests that ministers and civil servants will rely on the groups with the best information and/ or the ability to implement policy.


Key Points

  • 8.1 The Scottish and British policy styles may be compared to the differences between consensus and majoritarian democracies
  • 8.2 However, the evidence does not support such a binary distinction
  • 8.3 Devolution had a major effect on the group-government process - including significant interest group devolution, new policy agendas in Scotland, and new relationships between groups and government – although some relationships (such as in education) were already well established before 1999
  • 8.4 Groups are generally content with the process in Scotland and many believe it to be superior to group-government relation in the UK
  • 8.5 However, there are still winners and losers and some groups often dominate particular issues
  • 8.6 More conflict may arise in the ‘age of austerity’
  • 8.7 Groups may have to maintain contact at multiple levels of government to have most influence, but much depends on the policy area
  • 8.8 The SNP had some impact by devolving policymaking to local authorities and changing the way that many policies are implemented

Essay Questions

  1. To what extent do the Scottish and British Policy styles differ in practice?
  2. What are the main factors used to explain the distinctive Scottish Policy style?
  3. What is the ‘logic of consultation’ and why does it drive policymaking?

Self-test Questions

  1. What are majoritarian and consensus democracies? How is this relevant to policymaking?
  2. What impact has devolution had on Scotland ’s interest groups?
  3. Is there a ‘Scottish Policy Style’? If so, why did it develop?
  4. Which policy areas are most and least devolved? What effect does this have on interest group strategies?

Further Reading

Keating (2005a; 2010), Keating et al. (2009) and Cairney (2008; 2009c; 2011a;

2011b; 2013a) have written extensively on ‘territorial policy communities’ and the ‘Scottish Policy Style’. See Cairney (2012a: ch 8) and Chapter 10 in this book on multi-level governance.


Online Sources


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