With the devolved administrations of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales each having their own parliaments, there is debate on the question of whether English regions should set up analogous legislative assemblies. In the latest research conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, we look at the British public’s views on this issue.
Overall, we find that support for the creation of English regional parliaments and for ‘English votes for English laws’ is particularly strong among older and more conservative voters in England. At the same time, the perception that the creation of such parliaments would weaken the case for the Union overall also increases with age.
In principle, the idea of regional parliaments in England enjoys the support of a third (33%) of the British public, whereas a quarter (26%) of respondents voiced their opposition in our latest poll. Geographically, support for regional parliaments in England was particularly pronounced in London (38%), the North East (37%), and the North West (41%).
However, our research also reveals that the British public is evenly divided in its assessment of how likely or unlikely it is that regional parliaments will be set up in England in the next five years. Whereas 39% of respondents said they thought this likely, an equal proportion (38%) said they believed it unlikely, with the remaining 23% of respondents unsure.
Regarding the impact that the creation of regional parliaments would have on the case for the Union, a plurality of British respondents believe that their introduction would weaken the Union (38%). Only 16% believe they would strengthen the case for the Union. At the same time, a similar proportion of respondents (17%) think it would neither strengthen nor weaken it, and a significant 29% say they ‘don’t know.’
The likelihood of a respondents viewing the creation of regional parliaments in England as weakening the case for the Union increases alongside the age of respondents. Whereas a quarter (23%) of 18-to-24-year-olds adopted this view in our latest poll, the proportion rose to 48% for 55-to-64-year-olds and to 47% for those aged 65+ years.
Moreover, our research shows significant support for an ‘English votes for English laws’ approach, with a plurality of 36% of respondents opposing the idea of MPs representing Scottish, Northern Irish, or Welsh constituencies in Westminster being allowed to vote on laws that only apply in England. This opposition was strongest among 55-to-64-year-old respondents (50%) and those aged 65+ (55%), as well as with respondents who indicated they voted for the Conservatives (51%) in the December 2019 General Election.
Overall, our research suggests that support for the creation of English regional parliaments with powers analogous to those of the devolved parliaments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland is primarily concentrated among older and more politically conservative voters in England. However, with only a third of the British public supporting their creation, regional parliaments in England are unlikely to make it onto the agenda for the time being.