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Devolved power has all the advantages of unitary systems but none of the disadvantages of federalism Discuss

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Introduction

'Devolved power has all the advantages of unitary systems but none of the disadvantages of federalism' Discuss Before analysing the advantages of devolved power, we must first define the key terms. Devolved power is the transfer of power from central government to smaller, regional institutions, but this power derives from the central government and thus is controlled by them. Federalism on the other hand is similar to devolution, with the main difference being that these regional institutions share sovereignty with the central government. Around a third of the world's population is governed by states that have some kind of federal structure e.g. the USA, Pakistan and Australia. Contrastingly, a unitary system is one that vest complete sovereign power in a single, nation institution, and any local institutions can be reshaped, reorganised and even abolished at will. The vast majority of contemporary states employ unitary systems of government. In a unitary government, as seen in the UK, the central government retains sovereign power, and it is then up to then to devolve power to certain regions if they so wish. This perpetuates the view that they keep all the advantages of a unitary system with none of the disadvantages of a Federal system. They avoid the issues of interdependence, unequal standards, unclear accountability and regional inequalities. However, this is not to say that the unitary system is perfect; indeed it has numerous issues of it's own. ...read more.

Middle

One of the biggest arguments against a Federal system is the fact that there are very little common standards throughout the country, as the Federal government has little control over what the states can do. For example, in America, where this issue is common, in the field of education, it is difficult to impose a national standard, although the No Child Left Behind legislation tried to make a step towards this. Because America is such a diverse nation, whatever the Federal government legislate, there will always be a large faction of states that disagree strongly with it and refuse to implement it. However, in a unitary system with devolved bodies, this is not the case as the central government still has overriding control over the smaller institutions and can implement laws; an example being how in the UK there is a national curriculum. Another example is that in the USA there has not been a common standard regarding counter terrorism. In a recent Guardian report on Peter King and the Homeland Security committee hearings on Islamic radicalisation, it reports that 'systematic government failure to regulate content in nationwide counter-terrorism training and lax reporting requirements in federal counter-terrorism grant programmes.' Indeed, a lack of common standards leads to another problem of federalism, which may be said not to exist in unitary governments that devolve power - the problem of accountability. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, there is no guarantee that with a unitary system that devolves power all of the disadvantages of Federalism will disappear, and instead, these disadvantages are often present. Regional jealousies are likely to develop in unitary systems where power has been devolved. For example, in Scotland, students receive cheaper university tuition fees, which has caused a degree of resentment amongst English people, which has been amplified by the recent increase of fees to �9000. Furthermore, this notion that unitary systems are some sort of perfect system of government is ultimately incorrect, as it also possesses a number of weaknesses itself. When power is highly centralised, the government often seems remote, and concentrating on specific areas whilst ignoring the peripheries. This is evident in the UK as many of the further out regions see Westminster as tendering to the needs of the elite and specifically London. This distance also reduces the responsiveness and accountability of representatives, and thus reduces the democratic nature of a system. It is therefore clear, similar to everything in politics, no system is perfect as there are always going to be advantages and disadvantages. Devolved power superficially looks like the perfect system as it theoretically combines the advantages of unitary government without the disadvantages of a federal system. However, no system is perfect, and the unitary, devolved system has numerous negative aspects and therefore the notion cannot be fully accepted. ...read more.

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