‘Actively hostile’ UK Government means ‘we’re sleepwalking towards the end of the Union’ says Drakeford
The First Minister has said that the UK is “sleepwalking” towards the end of the Union if the UK Government does not change its attitude towards devolution.
Appearing in front of a House of Lords Committee on the Future Governance of the UK, Mark Drakeford said that the UK Government was the first in his political career that was “actively hostile” to the Welsh Government and Senedd.
He said that the UK Government had shown a “confrontational approach – an approach of muscular unionism. Aggressively unilateral in the way that it goes about things”.
“The union is under the greatest pressure it has ever been in my political lifetime,” he said.
“With the current UK Government, we face for the first time in the history of devolution a government that is instinctively hostile to devolution.
“We’ve never worked with a government that is instinctively hostile to the notion of devolution. It certainly doesn’t have to be like that – it hasn’t been like that for most of the 20 years of devolution.”
Mark Drakeford added that he believed that Wales’ future was best secured by being a member of a successful United Kingdom.
“The Welsh Government is that rather vanishing creature – a government that believes in the United Kingdom,” he said.
“We are sleepwalking if we’re not careful into the end of the union as we know it.”
He added that while he wanted Scotland to say in the Union, “[it] has to be something people want to belong to. It can’t just be asserted or required in their lives”.
“The weight of opinion in Wales continues to be in favour of stronger, entrenched devolution,” he said. However, the way the UK Government was attempting to overrule the Welsh Government ran contrary to that.
“We have example after example of where powers are devolved to Wales, have been in Wales since the start of devolution, and the approach of the UK Government is to come in, spend money themselves in those devolved areas, undermining, undercutting devolution, using that money less effectively – it’s less effective, it’s more wasteful,” he said.
“And it stokes political tensions. It gives ammunition to those people who have come to the conclusion that the Union is over and that we’d be better off outside it.”