Multi-Level Government: Increase Democracy, Bring Government Closer to the People

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To what extent does multi-level government increase democracy and bring government closer to the people? The United Kingdom consists of four countries; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. As the UK is a unitary state, the main power is centralised at Westminster. However, since 1997, power has been devolved to five different areas; the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Greater London Assembly and elected mayors in a number of cities, such as London. There are also several levels of local government, such as county and district councils and unitary authorities. Devolution is the transfer of power from Westminster to regional bodies, such as the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. However, while powers are granted to an assembly, sovereignty remains with the UK Parliament. Devolved assemblies legislate in areas specified by the Westminster Parliament, such as health and education. In the case of the Scottish Parliament, this includes tax-varying powers. Devolution has been a feature of British politics since 1997, when the Labour government gained a mandate from the electorate to enact a programme of radical constitutional and electoral reform. In a unitary state such as the UK, sovereignty is retained at the centre, Westminster, even when a devolved assembly is created. Westminster can close down a devolved assembly at any time. For example, the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended in 2002. Westminster also retains the right to decide on policy issues affecting the whole of the UK, such as foreign and defence policies. Unlike many EU countries, the UK has never had a federal structure. In a federal state, however, such as the US, sovereignty is divided between the central authority and the regional/local level. Unlike in a unitary state, power cannot be transferred back to the centre. For example, the US Federal Government in Washington DC cannot close down the New York legislature. Federal states...
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