Giant UK Government branding only applied to offices in Wales and Scotland
Giant UK Government branding applied to the front of a new civil service office in Cardiff at a cost of almost £15,000 is not being replicated at similar buildings in England, Nation.Cymru can reveal.
Tŷ William Morgan in the capital’s Central Square is one of 16 new UK Government ‘hubs’, but a freedom of information request shows it is one of only two such offices with branded facades – the other is in Scotland.
The prominent branding comes amid a move towards “muscular unionism” by Boris Johnson’s government, which has also recently ruled the Union Jack must be flown above the Welsh flag and ordered civil servants to stop referring to “the four nations of the UK.”
Wales Secretary Simon Hart said Tŷ William Morgan, which provides offices for 4,000 civil servants but could also be used to host cabinet meetings, “shows the UK Government’s commitment to Wales and to strengthening the Union” when he officially opened the £100m building last January.
But the building sparked a constitutional backlash earlier this year when a large UK Government sign was applied to its façade.
One Twitter user posted a photo of the branding on Twitter, saying it would make the “ideal backdrop for the next Yes Cymru march”. In response, one Yes Cymru member called it a “control statement from Westminster” and Sebastian Walters commented: “No such branding on any other government building I’ve ever seen… if it’s here and in Scotland you have to wonder whether they’re trying to subconsciously affect popular opinion.”
HM Revenue and Customs, which is the main occupant of the hubs, was asked through a freedom of information request seen by Nation.Cymru to confirm which of their 16 buildings had such signage.
The reply states: “There is UK Government branding on the façade of two government hubs, Ty William Morgan/William Morgan House, Cardiff and Queen Elizabeth House, Edinburgh.”
In Cardiff, the front of the building was branded at a cost of £14,677. But in Edinburgh, some £53,317 was spent on applying the UK Government sign and crest on all four sides of the building as well as Union Jack “flag abstracts” being applied to one side.
A statement explaining the decision says: “The UK Government signage may sometimes be more appropriate than the HM Government signage.
“The UK Government signage may be used for shared occupancy buildings in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland that house central government organisations in situations where the remit of at least one of the organisations in the buildings cover the whole of the UK, not just the country in which the building is located.
“The decision is made on a case-by-case basis by the governments departments or organisations involved.”
Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts said the decision to brand only the buildings in Wales and Scotland showed the Conservatives are “more concerned with outward appearances and symbolic gestures than solving the real problems of people in Wales.”
The party’s Westminster leader told Nation.Cymru: “From erasing our nationhood on the international stage, to grabbing back devolved powers, to splashing out on excessive right-white-and-blue branding – this Tory governments anxiety about the future of their precious union becomes clearer every day.”
Senior Labour politicians have also spoken about the Conservatives’ pro-union push in recent weeks.
First Minister Mark Drakeford warned a strategy based on “flying more Union Jacks about the place” is “very off-putting for many people” and would “end in tears.”
Economy minister Vaughan Gething accused the UK Government on Tuesday of embarking on a “new era of aggressive centralisation” and former Prime Minister turned Welsh Government advisor Gordon Brown wrote: “Muscular unionism is what it’s called – putting up more flags and badging bridges and roads with an UK flag on them. It won’t work.”
Speaking to the Welsh Affairs Committee this week, however, Simon Hart said that the UK Government was keen to become a more visible presence in Wales.
“Where I think there might be some tensions is around the fact that UK Government is not remotely ashamed to say that we intend to be a more prominent and visible government for the UK in Wales,” he said.
“We want to do – in a post-Covid world – much more along the levelling up and strengthening the Union agenda much more, very clear and visible activity which will touch much more people’s lives, sustain jobs, underpin livelihoods.
“There are some in Welsh Government who for some reason consider that to be a threat and that everything we do should go through Welsh Government.”
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