The policy-opinion link and institutional change: the legislative agenda of the UK and Scottish Parliaments

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Series Details Vol.18, No.7, October 2011, p1052-1068
Publication Date October 2011
ISSN 1350-1763
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Institutions can affect the degree to which public opinion influences policy by determining the clarity of responsibility in decision-making. The sharing of power between national and devolved levels of government makes it difficult for the public to attribute responsibility for decisions.

In the UK, this generates the prediction that the devolution of power to territorial units weakens the effect of public opinion on policy both for the UK and Scottish governments. To test this expectation, this paper analyses responsiveness of the legislative outputs of the UK and Scottish parliaments to the issue priorities of the public. It finds the policy-opinion link in the UK appears to be weaker since devolution to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 compared with the period between 1977 and 1998. It shows no evidence of a direct link between issue priorities of the Scottish public and legislative outputs of the Scottish Parliament.

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