‘Appeasing nationalism’: Conservatives attack Mark Drakeford after he says independence referendum ‘likely’
Mark Drakeford has been accused of “abandoning his responsibilities as First Minister of Wales and leader of a supposedly-unionist party” by the Welsh Conservatives following comments made to a newspaper about a second independence referendum in Scotland.
The First Minister told the Morning Star that it is “likely” a second Scottish independence referendum would occur before 2025 – despite the British Government stating would not allow the SNP to hold one – and Wales must thus prepare by holding a constitutional convention.
In his comments Mark Drakeford added: “The fragility of the United Kingdom is very real and our convention is designed to make sure we do the thinking on what choices there are on that future.”
Responding, the Welsh Conservatives said that Mark Drakeford had “undermined his own supposed unionism”.
Commenting, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Constitution Minister Darren Millar MS said that Mark Drakeford had a “constitutional obsession” and was “appeasing nationalism”.
“The UK is not broken, but the First Minister is beginning to sound like a broken record. The reality is that the First Minister is on a power grab because of his political disagreements with the UK Conservative Government.
“Instead of bewailing the UK and seeking more powers the First Minister ought to focus his attention on using the powers that Wales already has to get to grips with the problems created by his own Government here in Wales and work collaboratively with the UK Government for the benefits of all.
“Wales is going through its worst-ever A&E waiting times, longest-ever NHS waiting list, and second slowest ambulance response times. The families of the victims of Covid and lockdowns are being denied an inquiry. Getting to grips with these issues should be the First Minister’s priority, not constitutional reform.”
The Welsh Conservatives said that in addition to opening up talks for a “cooperation agreement” with Plaid Cymru, the First Minister had:
- Likened the United Kingdom to be being nothing more than “an insurance policy”;
- Said that his support for the existence of the country is “not unconditional”;
- Regularly undermined the fabric of the UK through his many assertions in the Welsh Government’s Reforming Our Union document such as sovereignty no longer resting in the British Parliament; and
- Consistently played up the break-up of the country despite Wales being the most “Unionist” part of the UK.
Mark Drakeford had told the Morning Star that the Welsh Government would be pressing ahead with the convention “to make sure we do the thinking on what choices” would be available to Wales.
“In this Senedd term there is likely to be a second referendum in Scotland,” he said.
“The fragility of the United Kingdom is very real and our convention is designed to make sure we do the thinking on what choices there are on that future.
“The membership and terms of reference will be announced in the next few weeks and will include a very strong strand of citizens’ voices in the work of the commission.”
His comments puts the Welsh Labour leader slightly at odds with Scottish Labour, whose official position is that there will not be another independence referendum until at least the next set of devolved elections.
“While the country is focused on recovery from Covid-19 over the next five years, we will not support a second independence referendum,” their manifesto for May’s Scottish Parliament election said.