- A system of government in which responsibilities and powers are shared between the centre and regional or state units. The division of power is laid down in a written constitution and any dispute is arbitrated by a supreme court. There is no possibility of central government abolishing the other tier; the sub-national government enjoys constitutionally guaranteed autonomy.Federalism diffuses political authority to prevent any undue concentration at one point. Federations accommodate sectional diversity, whilst providing the advantages of national unity. Federalism is widely seen as desirable or necessary in situations where the country is geographically vast and/or where there exist diverse ethnic, linguistic or religious elements (India, for example).Some writers suggest that devolution of power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland means that the United Kingdom is moving in a federal direction, hence talk of ‘creeping federalism’. British opponents of moves towards further integration in the European Union are prone to denunciation of a ‘federal Europe’ which they associate with the creation of some massive, centralised European super-state. By contrast, continental Europeans view federalism as a means of decentralisation.
Glossary of UK Government and Politics . 2013.