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Unitary System of Governance Explained

Scholasticus K Aug 22, 2020
A unitary system of governance is probably the oldest political philosophy upon which the governments of many nations are based. This is a system where the government establishes state governments for administrative convenience, and the constitution confers them with powers.
There are different ways in which a particular nation can be born. Nations like Great Britain or Japan were developed from long-standing monarchies. Some nations like the United States or Israel came into being after a war or struggle against some foreign power. Most of the Commonwealth nations came into being after their rulers granted them independence.
Depending upon these factors, different nations adopted some or the other political philosophies and administrative structures, such as democracy or socialist rule. Among these philosophies, a unitary system is a common form of governance, and is observed in many Commonwealth nations.

What is a Unitary System?

In this system, based upon some common parameters, the central government divides the entire territory into different parts which are known as 'states' and 'provinces'. This is done in order to provide for appropriate administration to the smaller regions.
Administration, no doubt, is more efficient when the state government comes into being. The constitution or charter that brought the nation into existence also empowers the states with a legislative assembly that has its own political spectrum. Some additional features of this system include as follows.
✦ States are not permitted to secede from the central government or union government.

✦ States cannot pass any legislation that is contradictory to public policy or the laws of the union or central government.
✦ In a debate about a particular policy of state, being eclipsed by the central government, the judicial system's intervention shall prove to be final.

✦ Legislative assembly of state cannot do honor to the doctrine set by the union or central government.
✦ Laws made by the legislative assembly of the state are restricted to the jurisdiction of the state.

✦ Laws made by legislation of the central government are applicable to all states.


There are several advantages that can be enlisted.

✦ Efficient Regional Administration: One of the best features is that the polices that are made by the central government are positively viewed and effectively implemented by the people of the state government. Such implementation reduces the workload of the central government.
✦ Respect for Common Law: One of the greatest demerits of the federal form of government that is overcome by the central government is the respect for common law that has been set by the central government. This makes the legal system transparent and almost foolproof.


The system of unitary states is to simplify and implement effective policies, but some drawbacks are as follows.
✦ Slow Implementation of National Policies: There are several policies that are to be implemented by the state governments, but are prepared and formulated by the central government. Implementation of these policies is difficult and time-consuming.
✦ New Laws: Passing new laws and legislation is difficult, and deep study has to be done by legislators in order to determine whether the new law is contradictory to the current laws of the central or state governments.

✦ Regionalism: One imminent risk is the social phenomenon of regionalism. Often, such regionalism results into friction between two states.
Overall, if viewed positively, it makes a great administrative system. Great Britain is the best example of a unitary system that has gained the trust of its people.