Challenges to the strategic state: welfare reform lessons from a devolved polity

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The article critically examines the Strategic State approach to social policy as represented by the ‘Scottish Approach’ to policy-making and delivery. The article outlines the defining features of a strategic approach to social policy and critically appraises the Scottish Government’s claim to reflect these principles in flagship welfare reforms. The article considers how far a strategic policy approach has been applied in Scotland and draws upon research exploring the response of local leaders to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to examine what this experience reveals about how ‘strategic’ these actions were. The article concludes that, in contrast to previous slow progress in implementing a strategic approach, the exigencies of COVID compelled innovations in policy making and accelerated practices consistent with a strategic approach. The article concludes with some reflections on what this evidence implies for strategic social policy making and governance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)811-828
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Social Policy
Issue number3
Early online date19 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2024


  • social policy
  • strategic approach
  • Scotland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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