Previous: Governance in the UK

Devolution is a very significant contemporary feature of the UK’s constitution. Devolution means:

The delegation of central government powers without the relinquishment of sovereignty.

Devolved states such as the UK can be juxtaposed with federal and unitary states, and with confederations.

Alternatives to devolution

A federal state, such as North America, is one where  sovereignty is divided amongst many federal units (’states’ in the conventional sense). Each enjoys some areas of autonomy. This is the opposite of a unitary state where sovereignty is concentrated in one supreme central government. A confederation is a loose association of sovereign states or communities, such as Switzerland or that in Star Wars. A federal UK would be inviable, as about 10 times the number of political representatives would be required as we have today and England would provide the dominant viewpoint in all situations due to its proportionately high population in comparison with Scotland and Wales. Federalism would also not complement English constitutional history. Unlike an immediate change to federalism, devolution is a process which can be introduced slowly.

Types of devolution

There are two types of devolution, legislative and executive. Legislative devolution is the devolution of powers to make primary legislation in the devolved area. Executive devolution only transfers administrative powers and the power to make secondary legislation. Both have occurred in the UK in past few decades.

Composition of the UK

Before we delve into UK devolution, it is worth noting what we mean when we talk about the UK...

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