What has Scottish Devolution Changed? Sectors, Territory and Polity-Building

Catriona Carter, Andy Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Generating systematic knowledge on devolution's impact upon polity-building in Scotland remains a considerable challenge. Convinced that a theory-driven method is essential, this article advocates analysis of change in the Scottish polity through a new approach rooted in institutionalist theory to studying the regulation of sectors of public and collective action. Labelled ‘territorial-institutionalism’, this approach studies actor usages of representations of territory as key political resources for legitimising the institutionalisation of sectors and, thence, of polity-building. In applying territorial institutionalism to two sectors – whisky and fisheries – we identify a plurality of actor evocations of territory which fall into three categories: polity-building, sector-building and identity-building. Moreover, we distinguish three political usages of these evocations in the (re-)institutionalisation of each sector post-devolution: (re-)setting the boundaries of their regulatory instruments; modifying the access of stakeholders to decisional arenas; and legitimising/de-legitimising policy instruments and actor influence during conflict. We conclude first that devolution has facilitated change in both sectors. However, inter-sectoral differences highlight the importance of how actors link different representations of territory. Second, we argue that analysis cannot be limited to Scottish arenas, but must include the engagement of Scottish actors in extra-national arenas in general, and those of the European Union in particular.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-40
Number of pages25
JournalBritish Politics
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • devolution, fisheries, institutionalism, polity, territory, whisky


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