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Change or stability in the structure of interest group networks? Evidence from Scottish Public Policy Consultations

  • Robert Ackland (a1) and Darren R. Halpin (a2)
Abstract

Scholars have hotly debated the structure of group engagement in policymaking. Two aspects of this conversation are examined here. First, some claim that the “explosion” of organised interests brings with it increasing fragmentation but also policy “balkanisation”. Others suggest increasing fragmentation, but with overlap between subsectors. A second area of this debate concerns the existence and number of “central” or “core” groups. Although existing studies show that, in aggregate, there is no more policy specialisation among United Kingdom organised interests, we do not know whether this means that there are fewer or more central groups. In this article, we utilise public policy consultations in Scotland over a continuous 25-year period, and the tools of network analysis, to examine the above propositions. We find that the expanding system of policy consultation is not associated with more balkanisation or with a decline of central policy actors that span policy communities.

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The data used in this article were collected as part of an ESRC Project 2006-9 “The mobilisation of organised interests in policymaking” (award to Halpin). We thank the participants and discussant for Panel 50-7 Interest Group Networks at the 2013 American Political Science Association Annual Meeting in Chicago, and participants at a presentation of this article at the Department of Political Science at the University of Michigan (2013), for their detailed feedback and comments on an earlier version of this article. We also thank the two anonymous JPP reviewers, and the Editor, for their very detailed and insightful comments on our work.

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Journal of Public Policy
  • ISSN: 0143-814X
  • EISSN: 1469-7815
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-public-policy
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