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Giving Wales more power ‘not the answer’, says author of UK Gov report on the union

05 Mar 2021 3 minute read
Picture by on the left by the Senedd (CC BY 2.0). Westminster by Stevebidmead.

Giving Wales more power “is not the answer” according to the author of a UK Government report on “strengthening” the union.

Andrew Dunlop told State of the Union, that he “isn’t calling for more powers to be devolved” and that he believes the answer is to make devolution “work better”.

This is in contrast to the First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford who has suggested a form of “entrenched home rule”, which would make the parliaments of each of the UK’s four nations sovereign.

Dunlop, who was previously Prime Minister David Cameron’s devolution advisor, suggested that making devolution “work better” is the answer to both devo-scepticism, and the rise in support for independence.

The former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office as well as the Scotland Office, who sits in the House of Lords, also insisted that he does not want to “turn back the clock on devolution”.

After being asked about devo-scepticism in Wales, Dunlop said: “I think in a sense the way to answer the rise in independence and the rise in devo-scepticism is actually to make devolution work better.

“I’m not saying the way devolution works is perfect, and I’m not calling for more powers to be devolved because I don’t think that’s the answer. I equally don’t think the answer is to turn back the clock on devolution.”

‘Welsh Conservatives’ 

Dunlop also suggested that it might be a good idea for the Welsh Conservatives to follow reforms made to the Scottish Conservatives, including having a defined leader.

He said: “It’s definitely something worth looking at. I think the party did commission a review in Wales, I haven’t seen the result of it, but I would argue that the reforms of the Scottish party have been very beneficial.

“It hasn’t been a branch office of London, it’s had a life of its own and I think that creative tension has been a good thing in terms of how the party has been positioning itself in Scotland and I think the same thing could benefit Wales.”

On the Covid-19 crisis he said: “I see this as a moment of renewal for the country. It is an opportunity to look again at how the UK is working. For the first time, I think people have realised the reality of devolution, for some that has been a shock.”

Dunlop also believes that the UK Government should have a minister for the union.

He said: “It seems to me that the integrity of the UK is of such importance that it justifies a senior cabinet minister devoting much of their time to thinking about improving how the UK works, so I would like to see existing practice go further.”

He added: “I always had a motto when I was in government – do the opposite of what the SNP are calling for… and one of those things was the abolition of the Scotland Office.

“It’s true the territorial offices are some of the smallest, but the aim of my report was to look at rather than sweeping them away, how you could focus their activity and give them influence.”

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