Multi-Level Electoral Competition and Regional Party Systems (2000 - 01)

A Project Funded by the Leverhulme Trust as part of its ‘Nations and Regions’ Programme (November 2000 – November 2001)

The process of constitutional change that Tony Blair’s Labour Government set in motion after its election in May 1997 spawned new arenas of electoral competition environments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  In view of these processes of devolution the Leverhulme Trust funded a series of projects with the aim of investigating how, and to what extent, these changes were likely to affect politics in the individual nations as well as in Britain as a whole.

Professor Jeffery and Dr Hough's project analysed the relationship between national and regional elections in Germany, Spain, Italy, Canada and Austria with the aim of throwing more light on possible patterns of party competition that may ensue in post-devolution Wales and Scotland. The results revealed that while there has been only minimal differentiation between election results at state and sub-state levels in Germany and Austria, the situation in Canada and Spain appears to be very different: considerable and consistent differentiation has been evident in these states, and strong and enduring regional identities have enabled regional parties to come to the fore in sub-state elections. The provisional data for the UK indicates that Scotland and Wales may develop more somewhere in  between the two ‘extremes’ discussed above. The SNP and PC appear to be performing much better, both in terms of election results and opinion poll data, in sub-state elections than they do in Westminster polls and it would appear that citizens of Scotland and Wales appear more willing to support the Nationalist parties in what they perceive as their ‘natural’ environment, whether this be in the Welsh Assembly or the Scottish Parliament.