What is devolution?
When you hear the word ‘devolution’, you may think that you’ve misheard someone who is banging on about Charles Darwin’s most famous theory or waxing lyrical about that 2001 sci-fi-comedy flick starring David Duchovny!
However, we’re not here to talk about ‘evolution’, we’re actually here to discuss the political phenomenon known as devolution and the career opportunities available within the UK’s three devolved governments.
According to Dictionary.com, devolution is “the transfer of power of authority from a central government to a local government.”* In the UK, this refers to the situation whereby some of the major government decisions and laws that affect Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are made, implemented and maintained by the regional governments that are located in those areas and not by the UK central government. These bodies offer plenty of graduate jobs, so, if you find yourself outside England, you still have a chance to involve yourself with government?
How do the devolved assemblies of the UK work?
Since devolution in 1999, the UK central government has transferred some of its power, authority and influence in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to the devolved governments that operate in those jurisdictions.
The UK central government is still in charge of developing and implementing all the policies that have not been devolved in these areas, such as defence, trade and foreign affairs. It’s also responsible for all the governmental decisions and affairs that affect England.
However, regional responsibility for governmental decisions and laws regarding matters such as health, transport, agriculture, education and justice, now lies with the relevant devolved governments.
So why is devolution important? Well, it helps to provide Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with an enriched sense of nationhood. It also helps the UK central government to share out its responsibilities and lighten its load to a certain extent. Furthermore, it allows local and regional matters to be dealt with more effectively.
The devolved government in Scotland is comprised of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament; in Wales it is comprised of the Welsh Assembly Government and the National Assembly for Wales; and in Northern Ireland it is comprised of the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Understandably, these devolved governments need a wealth of civil servants in order for them to operate effectively. Consequently, a wide range of career paths can be pursued in this area. The civil servants that work for devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Ireland are still effectively civil servants of the UK central government.
However, these organisations tend to handle their own recruitment directly, as well as accepting candidates through central government schemes like the Civil Service Fast Stream programme.
What careers are available in regional & devolved government?
A wealth of different career paths can be explored within the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. You can enter these organisations straight out of school and work in general administrative roles in regional government offices, or in ‘front of house’ and customer service positions at governmental and parliamentary buildings.
Alternatively, if you take the university route, you could focus on the policy side of things, where you’ll be conducting research and analysis to help develop regional policies. Alternatively, you could get involved with the operational delivery side of things, where you’ll play an integral role in the implementation of new initiatives.
Another option is to work in a corporate services role, where there’s a variety of options, such as:
- Focusing on marketing and PR
- Organising the procurement of people and resources
- Using your I.T. expertise to maintain and develop the organisation’s I.T. and telecommunications systems
- Putting your knowledge of finance and economics towards providing advice on planning and finance for the organisation.
These devolved governments also tend to employ specialist researchers in statistical and social research positions to accumulate the vital public information which influences regional policy-making. The Welsh Assembly Government even runs a two-year Trainee Solicitor Scheme for people looking to break into the law profession.
You don’t have to be Scottish to work for the Scottish government, you don’t have to be Welsh to work for the Welsh government and you don’t have to be from Northern Ireland to work for the Northern Ireland government. Indeed, candidates from anywhere in the UK can apply for roles with any of the devolved administrations.
So, now you know you won’t be regressing back to an ape-like state, does this sound like something that appeals to you? If so, this might be the perfect career path for you to take!