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More Devolved Power

Occurring at different speeds, with varying levels of national and regional support, the UK will experience more devolution and sustained decentralisation. This will redefine what it means to be British.

The general view in many of our conversations was that, as a nation, the UK is facing a fundamental challenge to its national consciousness, and a reinterpretation of what it means to be British. Although “the role that the Armed Forces play can still be unifying – even in the context of change, “Those organisations that are closely coupled to a strong UK identity may well experience a corresponding change in public support. “There is a rebalancing… from an employment perspective, this will make transition more challenging”.

Despite this, national leaders are increasingly seen as those best able to manage the future. “Nationalists want more control and devolution; more fiscal responsibility.” Calls for another independence vote for Scotland are growing, and with the socio- political shifts underway, a border referendum on the reunification of Ireland is also considered a possibility in some quarters. Alongside this, English regions are also keen to gain more control of policy and action – some, such as the South West and North West, are increasingly confident about setting their own path.

All this risks a potential fragmentation of the UK, which in turn could lead to rising “political uncertainty that will create challenges for the economy, the government, and the nation as a whole”. Add in the probable succession of the Queen by a less “universally popular” heir, and there may well even be “shifts in the role of the state over the next few years.” Whatever the perspective, there was general consensus that alongside a wider decline in trust in central government that has been underway for some time, there is an accelerating decline in confidence in the UK identity that will have a growing impact over the decade.

The implications of all this for those in transition are complex. Those who join the Armed Forces often do so because they are proud to be part of the United Kingdom, and therefore its fragmentation is a matter of deep personal concern. “A lot of policy is now moving to a place-based approach, which is completely at odds with those leaving the military, and a national organisation and conversation. Some worry that it will make it more complex to offer support, as different regions adopt different approaches to the likes of social care. “The point on UK fragmentation for me would be a divergency in investment and support levels which affects individual veteran or service leaver experience, rather than it being something that fundamentally undermines the provision of some support.” Others that we spoke to were less concerned, “none of us think there will be true devolution – but we do believe that the UK will be more introspective and less empowered in multi- lateral relationships.”

Logistical problems are also emerging, as policy makers struggle to adapt to the practicalities of devolution. “People don’t understand that we have devolved services,” and preparation for “transitioning Service personnel coming out of a united UK space into a national space” needs to improve. For example, “Scotland has fewer larger employers compared to the UK as a whole. There is, however, a vast number of extremely small businesses, so an individual who is coming back into the Scottish economy is probably entering a market that is not the same as that which is perceived by the MOD.” Similar views were echoed in interviews with experts in Wales and Northern Ireland, in particular with respect to local state service provision. As devolution deepens, social and health service provision will vary markedly from country to country and council to council. This means that transitioning personnel may have difficulty finding relevant information depending on where they choose to live on leaving the services. It is beholden on the MOD to help them.

If we map this onto the Transition Journey, we see competing forces. On the one hand, trends towards regionalisation of service provision could potentially allow for more personalised services, and therefore more immediately welcoming communities and employment opportunities for ex-Service personnel. This could greatly transform the culture shock associated with the ‘Threshold’ and ‘Confronting’ Stages of the journey. On the other hand, a fragmentation of the UK itself might have a significant impact both on the motivation for ‘Joining’ the military, and of course on those who see themselves, later in their transitions, having served an ideal and a country that in some ways no longer exists. In each case, those aspects of the transition journey that involve struggles with identity are likely to come under increasing stress.

Example Implication: Transition support shifts from a UK focus to be more region specific. Greater investment is required to ensure transitioning Service personnel receive appropriate support wherever they are located.

Discussion

3 Comments

Anonymous

This is less about the UK brand but more about its identity and likely fragmentation.

Anonymous

The point is that people are transitioning to an increasingly devolved world.

Anonymous

Devolution will be a huge feature - we will see the UK break up which will have an impact on charities.