Influencing Family Policy in Post-Devolution Scotland: the policy processes of the family law bill and the sexual health strategy
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The promise of devolution was to ‘do politics differently’ by creating a more plural, consensual and participative political landscape underpinned by the Scottish Parliament’s founding principles of openness, accountability, sharing of power and equal opportunities. In this context, it might be expected that post-devolution Scotland would provide a fertile environment for fostering innovation in family policy-making. Using a case study approach to critically analyse the policy processes of both the family law reforms and the sexual health strategy, the research uses Kingdon’s multiple streams framework to explore:- - the extent to which devolution has enabled civil society to participate in the policy process - how political activity by civil society impacts on government policy - whether or not devolution has fostered innovation in family policy-making. - who is influencing the family policy agenda in post-devolution Scotland The multiple streams framework offers a useful entry point for analysing the public policy process but Kingdon’s claim for the independence of the three streams of problems, policy and politics is problematic since these were found to be inter-related with a symbiotic relationship between the policy and politics streams. This supports work by Kendall (2000) which found a greater degree of connectedness between the policy and politics stream. The findings indicate that devolution has created a more fluid space for civil society participation in family policy-making but a paradoxical effect has been to increase the potential for interests to clash in the public sphere. And although progressive reforms were implemented in both cases, the formal policy instrument of primary legislation to implement the family law reforms facilitated engagement of a wider range of actors, enabled fuller debate of the issues and provided more checks and balances on the system than the informal policy instrument of the expert reference group used to develop the sexual health strategy. Devolution has not reduced conflict in family policy debates – the family continues to be a site of contestation and in the policy processes observed in one of the case studies, the combined forces of religion, politics and a distinctive media presence coalesced to create a ‘radioactive’ political climate. This had a direct effect on the policy process inside government which in turn, shaped the tone and content of the final policy output raising questions about the extent to which post-devolution Scotland can be regarded as providing a fertile environment for fostering innovation in family policy-making.