2001 volume 33(5) pages 823 – 844

Cite as:
MacKinnon D, 2001, "Regulating regional spaces: state agencies and the production of governance in the Scottish Highlands" Environment and Planning A 33(5) 823 – 844

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Regulating regional spaces: state agencies and the production of governance in the Scottish Highlands

Danny MacKinnon

Received 30 March 2000; in revised form 6 March 2001

Abstract. In recent years, regulationist research has increasingly focused on questions of subnational governance and regulation. Whilst there has been a shift towards new forms of local governance across the United Kingdom, in this paper I contend that the interaction between new mechanisms of (national) regulation and preexisting local conditions has produced considerable spatial variation in the precise forms of governance that have emerged at the local level. Following Peck, I suggest that this can be seen in terms of the interaction of distinct institutional 'layers'. This insight is developed by adapting Offe's notion of 'institutional filters' to emphasise the role of regional agencies in mediating and 'filtering' the effects of wider (national) regulatory mechanisms. In the second half of the paper, I apply these ideas to a particular regional case study, assessing how the national-level shift towards neoliberalism has shaped the practice of economic governance in the Scottish Highlands in the 1990s. As mid-level metaphors, ideas of institutional 'layers' and 'filters' help to open up a space for the consideration of agency and strategy at regional level, thereby addressing what has been termed the 'regulationist enigma', defined in terms of the need to avoid 'reading off' regional transformations from the posited logic of broader macrostructural shifts.

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