On Friday 4 August 2017, the Centre for Scottish Public Policy team met with a delegation from the Vietnam Office of the Central Committee headed by Trần Việt Hùng, Deputy Chief of the Central Party Office. The meeting was part of a series of seminars dedicated to the development and implementation of policy in the UK’s public administration, and highlighted some key challenges faced by both Scotland and Vietnam. CSPP co-chair Richard Kerley delivered a presentation on public policy and governance in Scotland and reviewed the perspectives open to the country after Brexit.
Professor Kerley opened his talk by noting the differences between Scotland and Vietnam, a larger, more densely populated country than Scotland, as well as the contrast between the UK’s multi-party system and Vietnam’s single party administration, emphasizing the CSPP’s commitment to healthy political debate and the organisation’s non-partisan approach. He went on to discuss the CSPP’s ongoing policy concerns, including our report on the National Health Service, our recent work on the provision of public services in the Scottish Islands, and our work on Brexit and the role of referendums in the UK (including our forthcoming event ‘Democracy in Action’, on Wednesday 13 September). Professor Kerley observed that health was an area in which both Vietnam and the UK tended to rely on top-down policies limited to the creation of new infrastructures, instead of effectively promoting healthier lifestyles among their citizens. He also noted the parallel between the three Scottish islands councils of Orkney, Shetland, and the Western Isles, and Vietnam’s remote mountainous and rural regions and islands. In both countries, these areas suffer from poorer access to basic services (healthcare, broadband access) due to their geographical situation and small population. He then discussed some of the CSPP’s proposals to enable more autonomy in those islands, such as context-specific healthcare training for island health workers , a better broadband access, but also a better understanding and knowledge of Island communities and of the specific difficulties they faced throughout the year.
Our co-chair, Richard Kerley, with Trần Việt Hùng, Deputy Chief of the Central Party Office.
In order to approach the topic of Brexit and its possible consequences on the UK and Scotland, Professor Kerley provided a brief summary of what he described as the UK’s ‘messy governance arrangements’, outlining the status of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and their devolved powers. He suggested a comparison between the UK’s devolved nations’ complex governance system and the political landscape of former colonial countries, taking the Spratlys and Paracels Islands dispute as an example. Another comparison can be drawn, he added, between Scotland’s multi-tier and multi-sphere governance, and Vietnam’s four levels of governance: “1) Central, Provincial, District, and Commune/Ward/Township.”[i]
This led to the final part of the conversation, which tackled Brexit and its impact in Scotland. Having acknowledged that most members of the CSPP were against Brexit at the time of the referendum, Professor Kerley explained Scotland’s vote to remain in the European Union by three factors: economic, social, and what he termed ‘solidarity factors’, that is the Scottish population’s attachment to regulations resulting from EU Membership in areas such as employment, trade, and environmental protection. However, he argued that Brexit could also be a source of new funding for some in the UK. In areas such as fishing, for example, but also for some public bodies such as local authorities, the end of UK’s contributions to the EU budget could result in new available funding, but such provisions must be nuanced by the ongoing uncertainty with regards to the ongoing negotiations with the European Union.
[i] Hai Hong Nguyen, Political Dynamics of Grassroots Democracy in Vietnam (Springer, 2017), p.196. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=X70tDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA196&lpg=PA196&dq=governance+levels+vietnam&source=bl&ots=gCecGRrdbe&sig=-0NF4rKCA13Fi5EIC7Wk3BT6Va0&hl=fr&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjP08PRgMXVAhWCZCYKHctkBbsQ6AEILDAA#v=onepage&q=governance%20levels%20vietnam&f=false Accessed: 7/08/2017.