In the latest poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, we asked Britons about devolution, which enables separate executives and legislatures in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The ‘devolved powers’ can exercise a degree of self-government through the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales (now the Senedd) and the Northern Ireland Assembly. The results appear to suggest that much of the British public lacks an opinion or knowledge about devolution in the UK.
About a third (31%) of the British public believes the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have the right amount of power. That being said, 30% said they don’t know, suggesting that a considerable proportion of British respondents are either not opinionated or informed on the topic. Slightly more respondents believe the devolved governments have too much power (22%) rather than too little (17%).
Age appears to be an important factor in responses: among those aged 65 and over, 29% believe the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have too much power, compared to 16% of 18-to-24-year-olds. Likewise, a greater proportion of 18-to-24-year-olds said the devolved governments have too little power (26%) when compared to those aged 65 and over (15%), indicating that the youngest age group seems to be most in favour of greater devolution of power. It is worth noting that the current form of devolution dates back to the late 1990s and therefore, many respondents in the youngest age group will not personally recall a UK without devolved powers.
Responses also vary significantly based on 2019 General Election vote: 32% of Conservative voters think the devolved governments have too much power, while just 9% think they have too little power. By contrast, 17% of Labour voters believe the devolved governments have too much power and 24% believe they have too little power. Thus, the sense that the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland should have greater power is particularly heightened among Labour voters, though a plurality (30%) believes the governments have the right amount of power.
An even greater proportion of respondents—a plurality of 38%—said they don’t know if the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have too much, too little, or the right amount of funding. A quarter (24%) said they receive the right amount of funding, while about a fifth of respondents said the devolved governments have too much (19%) or too little (18%) funding.
Again, the belief that the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have too much funding is highest among the eldest age groups (25% of 55-to-64-year-olds and 24% of 65-and-overs). Similar proportions of the youngest age groups believe the governments have too little funding (26% of 18-to-24-year-olds and 25% of 25-to-34-year-olds). Still, a plurality of each age group said they don’t know, a position that is highest among 35-to-44-year-olds at 43%.
Similarly, 2019 Conservative voters (29%) are once again more likely to believe the devolved governments have too much funding when compared to Labour voters (12%). Respondents who voted Labour (24%) are instead more likely to think the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have too little funding compared to those who voted Conservative (12%). A slightly greater proportion of Labour voters (37%) than Conservative voters (32%) said they don’t know.
The British public is far from a consensus on the issue of devolution, with most respondents saying the current amounts of power and funding held by the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are either the right amount or they don’t know. Around a fifth of respondents alternatively find that the devolved governments have too much power and funding, while a similar proportion finds that they instead have too little power and funding—both opinions, therefore, lack a strong base.
To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.