In a unitary system of government, local offices…

A. Have equal power with the central government.

B. Elect representatives to the central government.

C. Can veto decisions made by the central government.

D. Must follow decisions made by the central government.

The answer is D: Must follow decisions made by the central government. In a unitary system of government, local offices must follow decisions made by the central government. The answer is explained in the details below.

What is a unitary government?

A unitary government or a unitary state is a state that is governed as a single entity. It is a political organization in which all the power of governance resides with the central government. It is a complete contrast from a federal system.

The central government is the supreme power while administrative divisions or subnational units exercise powers that have been delegated to them.

A good example of a unitary state is the United Kingdom with Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales as the constituent countries. The United Kingdom and the parliament have the supreme power that member states cannot challenge.

The opposite of a unitary state is a federal state, and the United States is a good example. The power is shared between the federal or central and state governments.

The unitary government in the modern world

There are quite a few nations that follow the unitary system of government in the modern world. The United Kingdom has its political power in the Parliament, which is the legislature of the nation in Great Britain.

The other parts like Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have local governments of their own, but neither can they make laws that affect other parts of the nation as a whole nor can they refuse the laws made by the Parliament.

The United States of America has a federal system, but the states observe the Unitary system, individually. The states make their own laws, and even though the counties and cities within the state, make their own law, they have to follow state laws as well.

Differences between unitary and federal systems

The unitary system

  • Smaller governing units are established and controlled by the central government and can also be abolished by them.
  • The central government makes the major governance decisions.
  • Powers are applied uniformly throughout.
  • Very less political power exists outside the central government.
  • Power is with the central governing body.
  • A lot of unitary style governments end up being totalitarian or dictatorships.
  • France is governed by a Unitary body. Barbados, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Spain and
    Morocco are the examples of unitary monarchies. Zambia, Ukraine, Italy, China and
    Afghanistan are examples of unitary republics.

The federal system

  • If the rules and laws of ethnicities vary in a country and it can lead to a federal ruling system. A good example would be Belgium that balances two distinct ethnic groups.
  • There is a distribution of power from the central or national government to state or local governments for the adoption of laws that are reasonable for the country as well as the localities.
  • Power can be diffused in this system.
  • Large countries and multi-national states often have federal systems.
  • The United States is an excellent example of a federal government.

Advantages of the unitary system of government

-A unitary government is cheaper to run as the final say rests with the national government. This eliminates the multiple layers of bureaucracy and lesser red tape.  This means low operating costs. The administrative tax burden on the population can also be low if managed effectively.

-This type of government can move quickly as all major decisions rest with the center. There are fewer processing delays, and it is possible to be responsive whenever there is a need for fast movement.

-The unitary government can be smaller and can be run from a single location. There may be a minimal number of representatives or elected officials leading to greater efficiency. The societal needs can be achieved without micromanaging society daily.

-The unitary government promotes a sense of unity as loyalties are not divided. In a federal state, people may find themselves divided between the center and the state. In unitary systems, there aren’t any overlapping districts and this system reduces the sense of polarity.

-A centralized unitary system can also create satellites that can work within a community and provide access to needed resources while maintaining absolute authority of the center.

Disadvantages of unitary system of government

-The unitary government can often be without infrastructure. For example, if there is a natural disaster a unitary government at the top will be slower to respond than a federal government. This is merely because they may not sanction sufficient infrastructure beforehand to local governments.

-The unitary government reduces bureaucracy but in turn, may cause the office holders to manipulate the government for their own gain. If a person in the central government can be manipulated, then the society can also be manipulated. The person in power can also abuse their station to make gains for themselves.

-Central systems often focus on the big picture and domestic needs may be sacrificed to get there. A unitary government may not be well aware of the local needs and communities may find themselves without representation if any need arises.

-There is a possibility that the government may ignore the sub-states as its decisions are based on the needs of the nation as a whole. The decisions which were made without seeking the advice of the local communities may adversely affect those communities.

-A unitary government can become tyrannical as power lies in the hands of a few and they can also affect financial markets with their decisions.

-The power lies with a select few, and all the people don’t get proper representation. The reason being their rights, privileges or needs may be ignored by a unitary government.


In a unitary system of government, the power lies solely with the central government. All local offices, as well as governments, must follow the directive and decisions made by the central government.

Although there are both pros and cons to a unitary system, there are also many countries that practice the unitary system of governance.


  1. About unitary system: Taken from
  2. The advantage of the unitary system of the government: Retrieved from
  3. Differences between Federalism and Unitary System of Government: Taken from


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here