Is Scotland a Westminster-style Majoritarian Democracy or a Scandinavian-style Consensus Democracy? A Comparison of Scotland, the UK and Sweden

Paul Cairney, Anders Widfeldt

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Abstract

The idea of ‘new politics' in Scotland, in the 1990s, was based on a rejection of the ‘majoritarian’ politics of ‘old Westminster’ in favour of a ‘consensus democracy’ associated with Scandinavian countries. Yet, the nascent literature suggests that Scottish and UK policy-making practices are similar. UK policy making does not live up to its majoritarian reputation and Scotland was designed with key ‘old Westminster’ features. We extend the comparison to Sweden, as one of several, distinctive, Nordic reference points in Scotland. We examine critically its consensual image and identify the ways in which Scotland has similar features. The study helps clarify the practical meaning of majoritarian and consensus and encourages scholars to focus on actual behaviour rather than policy-making reputations. It also informs current debates on Scotland's future, using long-term evidence to inform recent attempts to revive this focus on the Nordic ideal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalRegional and Federal Studies
Volume25
Issue number1
Early online date24 Mar 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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policy making
democracy
Sweden
politics
reputation
comparison
evidence

Keywords

  • British politics
  • consensus
  • majoritarian
  • Scottish politics
  • Swedish politics

Cite this

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