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United Kingdom (UK) - Government and Economy
Welsh, Scottish, and Northern Irish Devolved Governments
Despite the unity of the UK, each nation has a separate government. The Queen of England has powers over England and Wales. Wales still has a devolved government but with quite a few limitations, ensuring the Prime Minister of England still holds ultimate sway over the decision-making process. Scotland and Northern Ireland have a more devolved system. The Scottish Government rules Scotland, and in Northern Ireland there is an Assembly and a Secretary of State.
Elections and Voting Rights
The entire United Kingdom works, on average, on a five-year election campaign period, in which all officials hold their posts for up to five years and can then be either re-elected or replaced. The general election is for members of Parliament (MPs), and this also includes an election for the prime minister’s role at the same time. In order to avoid a clash with the English parliamentary elections, the Welsh Assembly holds its general election one year after England. The next election for England is in 2015, thus Wales’ will be in 2016. Scotland and Northern Ireland had a national assembly/government election in 2011, so they will also hold elections in 2016.
Any person that holds a citizenship for a United Kingdom country is able to vote in UK general elections. European Union citizens are also allowed to vote in the elections, since the UK is part of the EU. All voters must be 18 years of age. Expats, if they have dual nationality or UK citizenship, are allowed to vote. British expats may also vote up to a certain time after leaving the UK, however this option is currently the subject of debate and may change in the future.
England’s most important political landmarks are located in London and include the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and the Houses of Parliament. In Scotland there is Edinburgh Castle, the House of Parliament, and Barlinnie Prison. Barlinnie Prison was one of the first prisons of Scotland and was still in operation well into the 20th century. Many political troublemakers were famously incarcerated there, including Glasgow gangland figurehead Jimmy Boyle, and Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber. Cardiff Castle and Bodelwyddan Castle are the predominant political landmarks of Wales. Northern Ireland’s landmark tours include Belfast, in which political murals are found throughout the city; Divis Tower; Milltown Cemetery; and Felon’s Pub.
Current Economic Issues
The United Kingdom has suffered from a recession brought on by the worldwide banking collapse. Unfortunately, England and much of the UK suffered a second recession in 2012. The United Kingdom is on the mend, but interest rates will remain at 0.5% according to the central Bank of England. Inflation lowered from 2.7% in October 2013 to 2.2% in November and is likely to continue at the lower rate.
Unemployment has seen a small change for the better at 7%, rather than the higher rate of early 2013. GBP growth is expected to hit 2.4% in early 2014 after remaining near 2 and 2.2% throughout 2013. Economists feel that the UK is vulnerable, and the slightest negative news could stop growth expectations; however progress is definitely being made, and with proper management full recovery is possible.
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