State Architecture: Subsidiarity, Devolution, Federalism and Independence
20 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2014 Last revised: 26 Aug 2014
Date Written: June 11, 2014
This chapter examines the current ‘architecture’ of the British state, in particular the way in which governmental power is distributed among the nations of the United Kingdom. The theme of this chapter will be to show how the continuing (and, as James Bryce argued, inevitable) tension between centripetal and centrifugal forces can be usefully applied to power relations between the various nations of the United Kingdom, and between these nations and Europe, providing a basis for analyzing how these nations are drawn or impelled by some forces towards a centralized unitary polity, whilst at the same time other forces tend towards dispersion of power. The resulting pattern might be analyzed along a spectrum from centralisation to independence, with subsidiarity, devolution and federalism being seen as weigh stations along the way, but given how complex the variations in the distribution of power between these nations and the centre have become over time, the construction of any static architectural blueprint of the British state is bound to be misleading. Indeed, the architectural metaphor, with its implications of stability might usefully be rethought.
Keywords: Constitutional law, devolution, British constitution, European Union
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