Alan Trench: About me

Speaking at ‘Scotsman’ conference on a Scottish independence referendum, March 2012

I am an academic and policy advisor, with a strong interest in devolution in the UK (and regional and federal government in other countries. I have been working in this area since 2001.
My background is in the study of politics and the practice of law. Born in Nottingham, I studied politics at Bristol University and Boston University in the US, and trained as a solicitor at Browne Jacobson in Nottingham. I practised for a number of years, mainly in local government, and remain a non-practising solicitor.
I have held academic posts at the Constitution Unit at University College London, the School of Law at Edinburgh University, and the University of Ulster. I also have strong connections in Wales, particularly with the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University.

My academic work has addressed a range of issues relating to devolution in the United Kingdom, as well as in federal and regionalised countries overseas. My work started with intergovernmental co-ordination, and also includes such matters as devolution finance and the institutions needed for it; the impact of devolution on Whitehall organisation and the work of UK Government officials; public policy issues; institutional issues relating to England; and the processes of constitutional change.
My articles have appeared in refereed journals including Parliamentary Affairs, Political Quarterly, Policy and Politics, Scottish Affairs, Public Law and the British Journal of Politics and International Relations. Book chapters have appeared in volumes from academic publishers including Palgrave Macmillan and Manchester University Press in the UK, Nomos-Verlag in Germany, Il Mulino in Italy and McGill-Queens University Press (in Canada). I edited (and contributed introductions and substantive chapters to) four volumes in the Constitution Unit’s ‘State of the Nations’ series of devolution yearbooks between 2001 and 2010, and edited and wrote about half of the volume Devolution and Power in the United Kingdom, published by Manchester University Press in 2007.
Comparatively, I have carried out extensive interviewing in Canada, Australia and Germany, and done less extensive fieldwork in Spain, Brazil, Switzerland and Belgium. I have published a number of book chapters about comparative intergovernmental relations and with Scott Greer of the University of Michigan am co-editing on a major comparative book on the relationship between fiscal federalism and welfare provision in the OECD’s federal and regionalised systems.
I have taught courses on a range of subjects, from introductory British politics for overseas undergraduates to LL.M.-level modules on the law of Welsh devolution.
I have given talks at universities across the UK, at various places in Europe and Canada.

I have been actively engaged in policy advice since 2001, both through advising politicians privately and giving public evidence to committees of the UK’s various legislatures and independent commissions.
I have given evidence to a wide range of legislative committees. At Westminster, these have included (in previous Parliaments) the Commons Welsh Affairs, Scottish Affairs and Northern Ireland Committees, the Justice Committee, the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee and the Treasury Select Committee. In the present Parliament I have appeared before the Lords Economic Affairs and Constitution Committees and the Commons Welsh Affairs Committee. At Holyrood, I have given evidence to the (two) Scotland Bill Committees, the Referendum Bill and Welfare Reform Committees and regularly to the Finance Committee. In Wales I have often given evidence to the National Assembly’s Finance and Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committees, and in Northern Ireland to the Assembly’s Finance and Personnel Committee.
I have also given evidence to such independent commissions as the Calman Commission (Commission on Scottish Devolution), the Holtham Commission (Independent Commission on Funding and Finance in Wales), and the Silk Commission (Commission on Devolution in Wales).
I have acted as specialist adviser to two House of Lords Committees for specific inquiries: the Constitution Committee for its 2002-03 inquiry into Devolution: Inter-institutional Relations in the United Kingdom, and the Select Committee on the Barnett Formula for its 2008-09 inquiry into The Barnett Formula. I was specialist adviser on constitutional and financial matters to the Commons Welsh Affairs Committee in the 2010-15 Parliament.
Informally, I have advised politicians from most of the major parties at one time or another, and gave evidence to the devolution commissions established by Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats in 2012-14. I was adviser to the Scottish Conservatives’ Devolution Commission (known as the Strathclyde Commission) in 2013-14.

Over the last few years, much of my time has been spent on projects to develop the shape of a future devolved United Kingdom. Much of this work has had direct policy pay-offs.

  • With Guy Lodge, I worked on a major project of the Institute of Public Policy Research entitled ‘Devo More’. Our major reports on funding and financial arrangements, and welfare devolution and the social union, were published in January 2013 and March 2014 respectively. We were the first people to argue in favour of assigning a proportion of VAT to the Scottish Government as part of a package of fiscal devolution, for devolving welfare benefits that overlapped with services that were already devolved, or for enabling devolved governments to supplement welfare. This work later provided the underpinning for the recommendations of the Smith Commission.
  • I worked with the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law on a constitutional Review of devolution, chaired by Sir Jeffrey Jowell QC, acting as a member of the commission and adviser to it. That report, A Constitutional Crossroads: Ways Forward for the United Kingdom, was published in May 2015. (For a summary, see here.) It argues for a ‘Charter of the Union’, and for full recognition in the UK’s constitutional arrangements of its character as a multinational union.
  • I have been involved in two major responses to the UK Government’s proposals for enhancing Welsh devolution through a ‘reserved powers’ model. I drafted the first report from a joint Constitution Unit/Wales Governance Centre project, entitled Delivering A Reserved Powers Model of Devolution for Wales was published in September 2015 (see here for summary). I was adviser to the group working on the second, Challenge And Opportunity: The Draft Wales Bill 2015, published in February 2016 (and summarised here.)

I regularly appear in print and broadcast radio. I have written for the Guardian, the Scotsman, the Western Mail and the New Statesman’s ‘Staggers’ blog, among others. I have been quoted in a wide range of papers including the Financial Times, the Daily Express, the Scottish Daily Mail, the Herald, the National and the Times, as well internationally as the Toronto Star, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post.

I regularly appear on BBC Radio Scotland, Radio Wales, Radio Five Live, and less often on such programmes as BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’, ‘Westminster Hour’ and ‘PM’, BBC TV’s Newsnight, Newsnight Scotland and Scotland 2014/15, and STV’s Scotland Tonight. I have been interviewed for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Law in Action’ and ‘More or Less’, and for numerous international stations and papers including NHK (Japan), ABC (Australia) and Bloomberg TV.


I am available for speaking engagements, training sessions and general consultancy and research.  See here for more information.


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[Updated February 2016.]