Before Devolution, both Wales and Scotland had support for independence from the UK. Scotland would easily be able to break away from the UK as it has always had a good industry and a history of research in science, medicine, transport and technology. It has a large population and a good supply of natural resources including North Sea Oil. Scotland had already seemed very different from England with its separate banknotes, its own church, its own health and education systems as well as its own bank.
Independence would have been a reasonable goal for many nationalists at the time. Wales on the other hand, would not have been able to become independent from the rest of the UK and the support for nationalism and independence would be mainly due to cultural reasons and the hope of the people that the nationalists would be more able to solve the problems in Wales at the time. It had suffered many economic problems during the 1980's and the levels of unemployment were high.
The closure of coalmines in the 1980's was one of the factors causing the problems, as thousands of jobs were lost. The support for nationalism was not very high but if the Welsh people saw that the Scottish people had been given their own parliament they would have been likely to want to be treated in a similar way. Devolution has been successful in the way in which it has prevented any kind of surge towards independence. It has given both Scotland and Wales their own responsibility over their own local affairs so that the need for independence is less likely.
Scotland and Wales have been able to introduce new policies in order to do what is best for their people. Local issues are represented better and things can be done to solve them. They have been given responsibilities over local affairs like healthcare, education, housing and transport; this has two advantages, it helps to reduce the workload at Westminster so that more time can be spent on English affairs and the responsibilities that have been retained by Westminster like foreign affairs.
The second advantage is that the local parliament would be able to focus on specific areas in order to improve conditions in that certain area. By 2000 Scotland had introduce thirteen new pieces of legislation that would only apply to Scotland e. g. no tuition fees and free elderly care; this shows that Scotland was much more effective in passing legislation that was needed in Scotland. Wales had also introduced new policies like the introduction of the Baccalaureate system of education as well as the banning of school league tables and the banning of SAT tests for seven year olds.
Devolution can be shown to be successful as there can be reduced risks of conflict within the area because local people are more likely to accept new legislation if it comes from a more local source that is familiar with the area. Devolution has shown an increase in democracy as the Scottish and Welsh people have been given more say in matters that could affect them. The Scottish opposed a "Beef on the bone ban" that could have cause problem for Scottish farmers and the Welsh opposed the growth of GM crops because they feared the risk of cross pollination with their crops.
The responsibilities of the separate governing body and Westminster are clearly divided so there shouldn't be much risk of a conflict between the two. Devolution also shows to be effective as it includes a Joint Ministerial Committee that unites the Scottish with the rest of the UK and helps to make sure there are no misunderstandings about the two authorities' responsibilities. Another way of avoiding conflict is by the use of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council: this is a committee that is available to make the final decision over any conflict.
Devolution does have it's problems as do all policies but I do not feel that they are likely to lead to the break up of the UK however it does show some ineffective points about devolution. A traditional policy within the UK has always been that all citizens should be treated equally no matter where they choose to live however; the introduction of new policies for different areas can lead to inequality e. g. Scottish students don't have to pay tuition fees but English students would. This can be viewed as unfair treatment.
Another ineffective factor of devolution is that in a survey, only 33% of Scottish people felt that the Scottish parliament has had an impact on their life; this could show that devolution is relatively ineffective. Devolution is expensive and this may seem as an ineffective factor of devolution because money should only be spent carefully on things that are necessary e. g. hospitals but in the case of the Scottish Parliament, the building costs of Hollyrood house (the parliament building) have been enormous.
Some people may think that Devolution could lead to the break up of the UK because it has brought conflict and inequality to the people of the UK due to the different policies introduced and has given rise to certain problems like the "West Lothian question" that questions the right for Scottish MPs to be able to vote on issues that would only concern England seen as the English and Welsh MPs aren't allowed to vote on Scottish affairs.
This could lead to the break up of the UK because it shows that each area wants to exclude the others from its own affairs. Another way in which people could argue that devolution could lead to the break up of the UK is that they could say that devolution could show the area, especially Scotland, that it can cope on its own so could be able to benefit from total independence; a survey can support this argument, as in 1998, 51% of respondents believed that devolution would lead to a surge for total independence from the Scottish Nationalist Party.
They would also say that devolution could lead to regional devolution; which would separate the whole of the UK. However, the issue of inequality has always been a factor as Scotland and Wales have always been very different from England so people were always likely to see differences in them. Wales couldn't cope independently so devolution just allowed them to have some responsibility in handling their own affairs and reduced the workload at Westminster.
And any surge for total independence in Scotland is unlikely as support for the Scottish Nationalist Party has decreased as Scotland can now handle their own affairs and are over represented at Westminster so they have a lot of say in matters. Just because Britain no longer has centralized powers this does not mean to say that it will be broken up. The final say remains at Westminster, as Westminster still holds all sovereignty. The important national affairs are still controlled by Westminster e. g.
foreign affairs, so Britain is still united. It is only local affairs that have been separated. Devolution doesn't seem to be leading to any support for regional devolution and this is mainly due to the fact that regions don't have very strong communities or national identities. Committees like the Joint Ministerial Committee and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, that both work to settle disputes, control any conflict that devolution could have caused, that could have lead to the break up of the UK.
Despite some problems, Devolution has mainly been effective as it has given areas more of a say in things so that successful policies could be introduced and it has decreased the support for independence: in the 2003 elections the Scottish National Party had lost eight seats and Plaid Cymru had lost five seats. Devolution is unlikely to lead to the break up of the UK as conflict is controlled and sovereignty is held at Westminster. Roles are clearly stated and the UK seems very much united.