Agency and governance in regional economic development: a case study of Dumfries and Galloway

Clelland, David William (2022) Agency and governance in regional economic development: a case study of Dumfries and Galloway. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis seeks to advance understanding of the role of strategic agency in regional development, how it is exercised, and to what ends. Given the tendency for research in the field to focus on cities and dynamic regional success stories, it is particularly concerned with the experience of more peripheral places. Drawing on a geographical political economy approach, and incorporating insights from rural studies, it adopts a theoretical perspective that sees regional development as the outcome of economic, social and political relations across space, and of evolutionary and historical processes. While to some extent path dependent, outcomes are also open to influence by purposive and strategic human agency. A conceptual framework is presented based around multi-scalar governance (as the systems and arrangements through which collective agency can be exercised) and place leadership (as the process of mobilising resources from across different scales in support of strategic interventions). This is operationalised through an intensive, in-depth case study of Dumfries and Galloway, in south-west Scotland, to explore: 1) by whom and to what ends strategic agency is exercised; 2) how resources from different scales are harnessed (or not) in these efforts; and 3) how specific territorial and institutional arrangements for governing regional development are constructed and contested. The findings present Dumfries and Galloway as a region that has experienced economic and political peripheralisation through both ‘thin’ internal capacity for place leadership and a lack of alignment with priorities at higher levels of governance. The thesis therefore emphasises a need to consider power relations between actors at different scales, and the governance arrangements through which these are mediated. In particular, it demonstrates the barriers to genuinely place-based strategic approaches within centralised systems of governance. In this context, actors in peripheral regions need to attract resources from elsewhere, conceptualised as a process of ‘coupling’ with the needs of central government and other extra-regional actors. The implicitly competitive nature of this process has the potential to exacerbate spatial inequalities. However, recent episodes of rescaling - in the South of Scotland and Anglo-Scottish ‘Borderlands’ - do demonstrate how regional actors can influence governance arrangements through an articulation of regional ‘problems’ with the political concerns of the centre, when specific windows of opportunity arise. These in turn have the potential to enhance regional capacity to exercise agency in shaping development, albeit over new and overlapping ‘regions’.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social & Environmental Sustainability
Precurrent Departments > School of Interdisciplinary Studies
Supervisor's Name: Hill, Prof. Carol and Cumbers, Prof. Andrew
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-82879
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 16 May 2022 13:43
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2023 13:01
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82879

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