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Giving Wales and Scotland more power ‘as effective as giving a bully your lunch money’ says former Union Unit head

22 Feb 2021 3 minutes Read
Luke Graham. Picture by Chris McAndrew (CC BY 3.0).

The former head of Downing Street’s ‘Union Unit’ tasked with keeping Wales and Scotland in the UK has said that giving them any more autonomous powers is “as effective as giving a bully your lunch money”.

Former Conservative MP Luke Graham quit the Union Unit at the beginning of the month after a furious bust-up over strategy to save the UK. His successor Oliver Lewis also quit two weeks later over alleged leaks.

Writing in the Times, Luke Graham said that he opposed both giving Wales and Scotland more powers and also any kind of federalism for the UK.

“For my part I believe the strategy of giving nationalists more powers is as effective as giving a bully your lunch money — it will never satisfy their desires and will entrap you in a prism of fear and powerlessness,” he said.

He added that “the fight for the Union is a long one” and “there is no silver bullet to tackle nationalism” but that the UK must show its value by being seen to provide financial assistance to the devolved nations.

“I’ve had the honour and privilege to work in No 10 and it is clear that this government is dedicated to the Union and led by an optimistic prime minister who can, through a strong Covid-19 recovery, international leadership in COP26, and levelling up in every part of the UK show the value of a truly national government,” he said.

“This challenge must be tackled by all those willing to match the fanatical separatism of the SNP with steely dedication to re-energise the United Kingdom. Maintaining and improving our country is not a job for the government alone — investment and engagement will help melt some of the hostility toward Westminster — but this is a battle for hearts as well as minds.”

‘Delivery’

The Union Unit has been advertising for roles in the team, and according to the job specifications, an understanding of the policy issues “relevant” to Wales is not a “requirement”. It has however been described as “desirable”.

The roles for what is described as “a high-profile team at the very heart of Government” which aims to maintain “the integrity of the United Kingdom”, are available in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

The listing on ziprecruiter.co.uk, says: “The Union Directorate is a small, focused team of policy professionals, analysts, comms experts and external secondees with a focus on making the benefits of the Union clear, visible and understood.

“The Union Directorate is responsible for the overall Union strategy, as well as driving delivery across Whitehall and beyond.”

The advertisement says that successful candidates will need “good political judgment, curiosity and independence of thought”.

At the bottom of that section, the ad says: “Desirable: have understanding of policy issues relevant to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Liz Saville-Roberts said the Union Unit was “yet another half-baked Johnson initiative”.

“A change of personnel can’t breathe life into this lost cause. Wales will find a future of hope and ambition through independence,” she said.

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