By Stephen Bailey.

In the UK, the people (i.e. the electorate) are sovereign.

The people authorise their representatives (M.P.’s) to carry out a programme of policies that they approve of (laid out in the M.P.’s manifesto) by voting for them in an election.

Under U.K. Constitutional Law, the House of Commons (HoC) holds ultimate sovereignty (on behalf of and authorised by the electorate) and in a unitary country like the U.K., the HoC and not the devolved legislatures is the supreme sovereign body.

Holyrood, the Welsh Assembly and Stormont (or the London Assembly for that matter) are NOT sovereign bodies and the U.K. is a single (or unitary) country, not a ‘union of (sovereign) nations.’

It is also important to note that, in a unitary country – as sovereignty ultimately lies with the central political power – such a state is a single country with constituent parts that pool their resources for the common good and not a ‘union of sovereign nations.’ This is because, as previously stated, sovereignty lies solely with the central political authority (the Commons in the U.K.’s case) and remains there, even after powers have been devolved to parts of that country.

In a unitary country like the U.K. (i.e. a country in which there is a single political authority) ultimate sovereignty lies with the central power, in our case the House of Commons. That central authority can devolve any amount of power it chooses to any number of regions of itself, but ultimate sovereignty remains entirely with the central power, which can revoke, in part or full, those powers simply by repealing the Acts of Parliament that set up the devolved powers in the first place.

There is absolutely no need under the U.K. Constitution for the House of Commons to seek or secure any kind of confirmatory vote from the electorate of the devolved region or from the devolved legislature before doing this (though in practice, this would be seen as undemocratic and heavy handed and a confirmatory vote would be sought by the HoC before doing such a thing).

The act of devolving powers to a region of itself in no way confers or transfers sovereignty to that devolved region (as is the case under federalism).

The principle of the ultimate sovereignty of the House of Commons is confirmed even by the website of the Scottish Parliament, which states:

‘Under this system of devolution Scotland is still part of the United Kingdom and the U.K. Parliament in Westminster is sovereign (has ultimate power).’

(NOTE: This is taken from the old, archived Scottish Parliament website, but the information is still up to date).

The above principles also apply to the other devolved legislatures, Stormont in Northern Ireland and the Welsh ‘parliament.’

We all live in a country called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

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© 2021 Stephen Bailey


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