A unitary system of Government is one in which the central or national government is supreme, possessing complete governmental powers. In a unitary state, there is no sphere of governmental actions assigned by the constitution to small units of government, such as States, Provinces, Regions or Cantons. In other words, in this system of government, there is no constitutional division of powers between the centre and the local territorial divisions.
In a Unitary system of government, the national or central government may and usually does delegate many duties to cities, local or original units. However, this authority is delegated by an ordinary statute enacted by the National legislature and not by the constitution. Accordingly, these powers may be withdrawn using equal facilities. It follows that in a unitary system of government, the constitution needs not necessarily be supreme for the centre may have the power to modify it if need be.
A unitary system of government is usually adopted by States with small territory and with relatively homogenous culture. A good example of a country with a Unitary system of government is Great Britain.
Features of a Unitary System of Government
1. In a Unitary system of government, there is no powerful central or national government which is responsible for the administration of the whole country.
2. In a unitary state, relationship is between the central government and small local units created by the centre.
3. A Unitary state can adopt a unicameral or bicameral legislature depending on the constitution of the country concerned.
4. The constitution of a unitary state must necessarily be unwritten.
5. The constitution also need not necessarily be rigid.
Advantages of Unitary Government
1. It encourages unity especially, in a State with few ethnic groups.
2. There is uniformity in administration, policy and law. For example, matters like Education, Security, etc., are dealt with in the same manner.
3. A Unitary system of government is less expensive than a federal system of government.
4. It brings about a strong government, especially in a country without too many nationalities.
5. It makes it possible for sectional, ethnic or parochial loyalty to be minimised if not completely eliminated.
Disadvantages of Unitary Government
1. A unitary system of government cannot be adopted in countries with many ethnic groups.
2. It is difficult to operate a unitary government in countries with fairly large geographical land areas.
3. A unitary system of government can lead to over centralisation which, in turn, could lead to abuse of power by whoever controls the central government.
4 Citizens who live in rural communities may be alienated from the activities of the central government. In most cases, these rural areas are without basic amenities like electricity, water and good roads.
5. Since local authorities do not derive their powers from the constitution, they are absolutely subordinate to the central government. In view of this, the central government can deal with the local authorities as it deems fit without taking into consideration the feelings of the local people.