Devolution, “new politics” and election pledge fulfilment in Scotland, 1999–2011

  • Fraser McMillanEmail author
Forward Thinking


The institutions of Scottish devolution were designed using the majoritarian Westminster system as a “negative template” with the hope that a more consensual “new politics” would emerge. The electoral system successfully prevented a single-party majority in the first three sessions of the Scottish Parliament. But did this bring about the desired changes in party behaviour? Research on the connection between campaign promises and government actions shows that it is strongest in the United Kingdom—where single-party majorities are the norm—and weakest in countries where multiparty coalitions are common. If new politics had succeeded in its aims, we would expect Scottish governments to fulfil a lower proportion of manifesto pledges than British governments. This study investigates the extent to which the 1999 and 2003 Scottish Labour-Liberal Democrat coalitions and the 2007 SNP minority administration fulfilled their campaign pledges using an original dataset containing 600 individual manifesto pledges. All three parties are found to have fulfilled pledges at a rate comparable to Westminster governments. These findings reinforce the notion that the reality of post-devolution Scottish politics fell short of its designers’ ambitions. Supplementary analyses provide further support for inferences made in previous pledge studies concerning the factors which contribute to pledge fulfilment.


Manifestos Election pledges Party responsibility Devolution Scottish politics Westminster system 



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© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social and Political SciencesUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK

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