State architecture: subsidiarity, devolution, federalism and independence

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


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 centralization 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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Public Law
EditorsMark Elliott, David Feldman
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9781107655096
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015

Publication series

NameCambridge Companions to Law
PublisherCambridge University Press


  • United Kingdom, James Bryce, Ireland, subsidiarity, devolution, federalism, independence, Scotland, Wales

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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