Devolution and the UK Economy

In This Review

Devolution and the UK Economy
Edited by David Bailey and Leslie Budd
Rowman & Littlefield, 2016
240 pp.
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In normal times, a book on local economics in the United Kingdom edited by two business professors would pass unnoticed. But these are not normal times, and the issue of whether British territorial subunits can prosper on their own has taken on vital importance. The volume sets forth some clear and convincing findings on the matter. One is that Scotland’s relative poverty means that independence from the United Kingdom would be economic suicide. No matter what they say, the leaders of the pro-independence Scottish National Party likely have little interest in changing the current arrangement, in which they rule Scotland with the help of massive economic aid from London. This is paradoxical, because Scots who voted for independence in 2014 were motivated primarily by a desire for greater economic equality and not by nationalism. As for Wales, political apathy and the lack of a regional party have put the region at an economic disadvantage compared to Scotland. In Northern Ireland, the quest for greater economic autonomy through relatively low tax rates has had only a marginal effect on corporate investment—but it has reduced tax revenues, which has required the region to seek even more subsidies from London. Some individual English cities have also sought greater autonomy, but with the exception of Manchester, they have met with little success. Although local economic policy remains obscure, it may have a greater effect on British citizens than the big political issues that make headlines. 

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