Drakeford seeking legal advice on Wales’ power to hold independence referendum after Scottish judgement
The First Minister has said that his government is seeking legal advice on what impact the Supreme Court’s judgement to deny the Scottish Parliament the power to hold a referendum will have on Wales.
The UK Supreme Court unanimously decided last week that the Scottish Government does not have the power to call an independence referendum.
The case could set a future precedent for the rest of the UK, including whether the Welsh Parliament could decide to call an independence referendum.
Speaking in the Senedd, Mark Drakeford said that the Welsh Government were looking into whether or not the Welsh settlement offers a different route to holding a referendum than the one tested by the Scottish Government in the courts.
“We are studying the judgment and we are making sure that we get advice in the round as to where that judgment impinges on the responsibilities and possibilities of the Senedd,” he said.
He was responding to a question from Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price, who asked him whether there was more wiggle room within Wales’ devolution settlement to hold a referendum than there was in Scotland.
Mark Drakeford replied: “I don’t know enough to be sure that I can answer the leader of Plaid Cymru’s question in all its detail.
“I have a suspicion that it will not be quite as straightforward as he might think—that what the court in the Scottish case tested was whether, in exercising functions, the Scottish Parliament would be within the ambit of its own devolved responsibilities, and I imagine that the same test would apply to our powers as well, even through secondary legislation and even if you attempted to frame it within that very broad ambit of responsibility for the well-being of people here in Wales.
“But, as the Counsel General said, we are taking detailed advice on the relationship between the Scottish question, as tested in the Supreme Court, and the powers that we have here in Wales, and I’ll make sure that the point raised by the leader of Plaid Cymru this afternoon is tested in that advice.”
Mark Drakeford also questioned the First Minister on whether his view that Scotland should be free to hold an independence referendum had changed after the Supreme Court ruling.
“You’ve said previously that the United Kingdom should now be seen as a voluntary association of nations,” Adam Price said.
“Do you agree with your counterpart in Scotland that last week’s judgment means that the United Kingdom is not currently, at least, a voluntary partnership, when Westminster not just possesses a legal veto on self-determination but is politically determined, it seems, to using it?”
Mark Drakeford said that his own view had not changed.
“Matters in Scotland are matters for the Scottish Labour Party and for the leader of the party to navigate. I hear what the leader of the Labour Party in Scotland says, which is that a referendum is a matter of timing and, quite certainly in the view of the Scottish Labour Party, now is not the moment when people in Scotland have their minds focused on constitutional matters when they have a winter of the sort that they see stretching out in front of them,” he said.
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