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
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Social Policy
Early online date19 Sep 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Sep 2022


  • social policy
  • strategic approach
  • Scotland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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