The Constitution Unit at UCL ran a project about 3 years ago now, entitled ‘Constitutional Futures 2020’. Funded by the Nuffield Foundation, this project sought to use the techniques of future studies and futurology to assess key issues for the UK’s constitution over the coming decade and a third. In doing so, it built on work done by the Unit in the late 1990s, which produced a book called Constitutional Futures: A history of the next 10 years.
The project produced a volume of short essays (each of about 4-5000 words), trying to assess how various areas of the constitution – human rights, the judiciary, the UK Parliament and so forth – would develop given the changes already made and the pressures that would emerge before 2020. I ended up writing two chapters, one on Scotland and Wales and their constitutional development, and one on intergovernmental relations and finance. I pointed out that Scotland’s constitutional development would be shaped more by factors arising from distinctive Scottish nationhood than anything else, as in most objective respects Scotland is very like England. This is in contrast to Wales, which not only had a developing sense of political nationhood but is also poorer and worse-off or worse-performing in most material respects, and so has an exogenous need to have different policies. (To put that more simply, Scotland does things differently because Scots think differently, not because Scotland is all that different. Wales will look to do things differently because Wales is different, and is increasingly thinking differently as well.) I also argued that intergovernmental finance would be a key issue, and getting it right – to support the existing devolution of power rather than act as a way of centralising power – would be central to holding the UK together, and this was something that the block-grand-and-formula system failed to do. With all modesty, I think that analysis and the predictions that followed have proved pretty accurate so far.
The book has clearly done sufficiently well in (absurdly expensive) hardback that it’s just become available in paperback. Details (and a free download of the introduction) are available from Palgrave Macmillan’s website here, and from the Unit’s website here. Those interested in the launch event in November 2008 (which I couldn’t attend) can find details, including recordings of most of the discussions, here. And the book itself can be ordered at a discounted price from The Book Depository here.