View from the Devolved Nations

Labour’s likely ascendency to controlling the UK Government will bring fresh challenges to the devolved administrations. Grayling’s team of experts have been analysing what an incoming Labour administration might mean for the governing parties in each nation and how it may impact future election outcomes.

Scotland: Can Labour rebuild its reputation?

By Ross Laird, Head of Scotland

The expectation of a Labour majority in Westminster will be largely come at the expense of the SNP. Many of the key battlegrounds lie across the Central Belt in what will swiftly become the territorial dispute between the two parties in the Scottish Parliament elections in 2026.

Make no mistake, all of the political parties in Scotland are entering the General Election campaign with an eye towards building momentum for 2026. That means that there will be little love lost between the SNP and Labour. The SNP will be keen to continue to lay the blame for cutbacks and austerity at Westminster’s door and start to rebuild their narrative after the General Election.

Constitutionally, there are likely to be continued disputes between London and Edinburgh. However, with less than two years between now and the 2026 election and the collapse of the deal with the Scottish Green Party, the scope for the kind of legislative disputes we’ve seen in the past (notably the deposit return scheme and gender recognition) are much reduced.

From Labour’s perspective, this will be an opportunity for the Party to rebuild its position as the dominant force in Scottish politics. Douglas Alexander’s expected return will give the sense that Scottish Labour’s big hitters are back and the promised location of Great British Energy in Scotland will be keenly watched. Ultimately, Glasgow remains the largest political prize, both in the 2026 Scottish Parliament elections and the local government elections thereafter, so expect to see a flurry of announcements from Labour that demonstrate their commitment to the city.

Wales: Will Keir Starmer’s win spell the end for Vaughan Gething’s premiership?

By Siân Jones, Head of Wales

Labour’s long Welsh winning streak shows every sign of continuing at this election, but we can expect internal Party debates to continue over the future of the beleaguered Welsh First Minister, Vaughan Gething. Gething has long been considered the preferred candidate of UK Labour, but Starmer will need to consider how tenable the First Minister’s position is as Labour head into the Party Conference season.

Having brought the Co-Operation Agreement between the parties to an early end, Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth will have his eyes fixed on the 2026 Senedd elections. This leaves Gething, who recently lost a Senedd confidence vote in his leadership, struggling to get his Budget through – a problem amplified by Rhiannon Passmore’s suspension from the Labour Group this week.

With Rachel Reeves’ strict spending plans and lack of firm commitment to reform the Barnett Formula, there’s likely to be little change in funding allocated to Wales in the short term, meaning scant relief for the creaking Welsh NHS. Meanwhile, the pressure to resolve the steel crisis at Port Talbot will be considerable.

There may be some improvement – at least superficially – in functioning intergovernmental relations, with the proposed Council for the Nations and Regions providing a new forum. However, UK Labour are treading carefully on the question of further devolution, particularly over whether control over structural funds will move to the Welsh Government or other Welsh ‘representatives’, as stated in the manifesto.

We can expect a united front from UK and Welsh Labour for now, with a spate of joint announcements and visits in newly won seats – particularly those that showcase their shared commitment to skills, jobs and the green economy. But, over time, conflict may well reemerge over funding – and who determines where it goes.

Northern Ireland: How does Labour keep Northern Ireland’s devolution running?

By Richard Hunter, Northern Ireland analyst

Voters in Northern Ireland will go to the polls with a power-sharing Executive and Assembly in place, for the first time since the Assembly election in May 2016, four Prime Ministers ago. Maintaining those institutions and providing stability will be the key priority for any incoming government but, with the DUP potentially facing losses of Westminster seats and further leadership turmoil, stable leadership within Northern Ireland may be hard to come by.

With an urgent crisis in Northern Ireland’s health service and disputes over a fair fiscal formula for Northern Ireland, demands for funding for frontline services are likely to confront the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. With spending tightly constrained at a UK level, we can expect a dispute over the Executive parties’ unwillingness to raise more revenue locally, as well as over the costs of specific projects, including the renovation of Casement Park to host matches at Euro 2028.

The parties are, however, united in their desire for the repeal of the UK Government’s legislation regarding the legacy of the Troubles, which is opposed by all five main NI parties and committed to by Labour. Labour’s policies on closer alignment with the EU on veterinary regulation and carbon pricing also have the potential to remove post-Brexit trade frictions between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, which will be welcomed across the Northern Irish economy.

With Irish elections expected within months, Sinn Féin and the Irish Government will remain on an election footing after the new UK Government takes office, while a new European Commission is yet to be formed for trade negotiations. While there may be a more diverse delegation of Northern Irish MPs in the Commons to hold him to account, there will be no quick and easy answers on Northern Ireland for a Labour Government.