Unitary state

Unitary state

  Unitary states

A unitary state is a state governed as one single power in which the central government is ultimately supreme and any administrative divisions (subnational units) exercise only powers that their central government chooses to delegate. The majority of states in the world have a unitary system of government. Of the 193 UN member states, 165 of them are governed as unitary state.

Unitary states are contrasted with federal states (federations) and confederal states (confederation):

  • In a unitary state, subnational units are created and abolished, and their powers may be broadened and narrowed, by the central government. Although political power in unitary states may be delegated through devolution to local government by statute, the central government remains supreme; it may abrogate the acts of devolved governments or curtail their powers.
    • The United Kingdom is an example of a unitary state. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have a degree of autonomous devolved power, but such devolved power is delegated by the Parliament of the United Kingdom which may enact laws unilaterally altering or abolishing devolution.
    • Many unitary states have no such areas having any degree of autonomy. Subnational areas can not decide any of their own laws. Some examples of such countries are Sweden, Norway[1] and Ireland.
  • In federal states, by contrast, states or other subnational units share sovereignty with the central government, and the states constituting the federation have an existence and power functions that cannot be unilaterally changed by the central government. In some cases, it is the federal government that has only those powers expressly delegated to it.

Devolution (like federation) may be symmetrical, with all subnational units having the same powers and status, or asymmetric, with regions varying in their powers and status.


  • List of unitary states 1
    • Unitary republic 1.1
    • Unitary monarchy 1.2
    • 5 largest unitary states by nominal GDP 1.3
    • 5 largest unitary states by population 1.4
    • 5 largest unitary states by area 1.5
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4

List of unitary states

Unitary republic

Unitary monarchy

5 largest unitary states by nominal GDP

5 largest unitary states by population

5 largest unitary states by area

See also


  1. ^ Svalbard has even less autonomy than mainland. It is directly controlled by the government and has no local rule
  2. ^ Roy Bin Wong. China Transformed: Historical Change and the Limits of European Experience. Cornell University Press. 
  3. ^ "Story: Nation and government – From colony to nation". The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 29 August 2013. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "Social policy in the UK". An introduction to Social Policy. Robert Gordon University - Aberdeen Business School. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 

External links

  • Open University – The UK model of devolution
  • Open University – Devolution in Scotland