By Alistair Cole
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Additional info for Beyond Devolution and Decentralisation: Building Regional Capacity in Wales and Brittany
These two regions are broadly comparable in terms of the challenges they face. In historical terms, both Wales and Brittany correspond to those regions identified by Rokkan and Urwin (1982), in which the development of regional consciousness is a function of economic dependency and the persistence of a strong cultural identity. Wales and Brittany share many similar features. Traditionally, both regions were poor, peripheral, economically underdeveloped regions. As measured in terms of GDP, Brittany was France’s poorest region in 1945, and Wales has always been one of the poorest parts of the United Kingdom (with GDP hovering around 80 per cent of the national average).
Both nations had their own forms of administrative decentralisation (the Scottish and Welsh Offices) which – within limits – allowed for local solutions to be adapted to territorially specific problems. Both nations were dominated politically by a Unionist Labour party which looked to capturing the commanding levers of the British economy, rather than encouraging regional separatism. The political imperatives of Labour at the United Kingdom level (the reliance on the Scots and the Welsh for any Westminister majority) strengthened their natural instinct towards centralisation and their suspicion of devolution.
Following adoption of the constitutional amendment, there were calls to merge separate regions into single authorities in Normandy, Savoie, the Rhine, Corsica and Brittany. In Brittany, traditional regionalists called for the Brittany region to recover the ‘lost’ Loire-Atlantique department and to restore Brittany in its historic boundaries. These demands were counterbalanced, however, by those calling for the creation of a vast western region by joining together the existing Brittany, Normandy and Pays de la Loire regions.