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Last updated 22 Mar 2021
Devolution sees Central Government granting power to subordinate authorities whilst retaining sovereignty.
It is different from federalism, where sovereignty is shared between central government and states, with the power of states being guaranteed by a constitution.
In the widest sense, devolution refers to the powers given to regional and local government. However, it is used most in the UK to describe the powers that have been granted to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Irish Assembly.
Thus, devolution in the UK has been bound up with the concept of nationalism, which is the desire of people with a common bond to unite and govern themselves. This bond could be one of race, language, religion, geography or history.
Administrative devolution has been in place in the UK since 1964, with both Scottish and Welsh offices running services, having been allocated funds. So the Scottish Office for example controlled Health, Home Affairs, Agriculture, Industry, Environment and Education.
Legislative devolution, which is the power to actually make, amend and repeal laws in predetermined areas has only existed since 1997 in Scotland and Wales, after referendums in those countries established their respective parliaments.