Georgetown Law
Georgetown Law Library

United Kingdom Legal Research Guide

This in-depth guide will help researchers navigate legal materials for the United Kingdom.

Overview of the Legal System


Palace of Westminster (a/k/a the Houses of Parliament)
Photo by David Iliff via Wikimedia Commons
  CC BY-SA 2.5 Generic License

Governing Structure

Until quite recently, the UK's governing structure has been characterized by a high degree of centralization, with power concentrated in Parliament, the national legislature that meets in London.

Since 1999, however, some legislative powers have been devolved to a new Scottish Parliament, sitting in Edinburgh, a new Welsh Assembly, sitting in Cardiff, and a new Northern Ireland Assembly, sitting in Belfast.

Further movement toward a more decentralized governing structure is likely, but a shift to a fully federal system would be difficult achieve due to the fact that England accounts for nearly 85 percent of the UK's population.

The following pages describe the three components of the UK government at the national level:

Devolved Legislatures

Scottish Parliament


Photo by Colin via Wikimedia Commons
CC BY-SA 4.0 License

Welsh Assembly


Photo by David Edkins via Wikimedia Commons
CC BY-SA 2.0 License

Northern Ireland Assembly


Photo by Robert Paul Young via Flickr
CC BY 2.0 License