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Independence debate ‘healthy’ and a sign of ‘political maturity’ says Labour incumbent

20 Apr 2021 4 minutes Read
John Griffiths MS. Picture by Senedd Cymru

The debate around independence is “healthy” and a sign of growing “political maturity” in Wales according to a Labour incumbent Senedd member.

John Griffiths who has represented Newport East since the dawn of devolution in 1999 said that it was a good thing that more people were taking an interest in independence.

In a video interview with LabourList he said that he had sensed a growing interest in independence, particularly among young people.

“Well I think the first thing I’d say is that I think it’s quite healthy to have the debate and the discussion on independence,” he said.

“There’s this phrase that’s used, ‘indy curious,’ which you know I think is not a bad thing. You know curiosity is generally a good thing and people should take an interest and want to be informed.

“I want to think about the potential pluses and minuses, so I think it’s a good thing to have the debate and it’s also a sign that greater political maturity I think.

“22 years on since devolution this has happened and people are more interested in it as you know as a topic of conversation and discussion, so I think all of that is healthy.

“And particularly with young people I think you know we do see a very marked degree of engagement and interest in in independence and again I think you know that I think that’s a good thing.

“So the effect that that might have on polls, it is difficult to know but I think it is one strand of a difference this time around compared to previous elections that it’s more of an issue.

“People are taking more interest in it and there’s this sort of division then between sort of unionists and you know those in favour of independence.

“And that to some extent would cut across the parties as well. Obviously you know Plaid Cymru in a particular position but otherwise it would cut across the parties quite generally. So it’s interesting to think of the effect that that might have on general voting intentions.

“But Labour’s position area is very clear that whether we welcome the debate or not our view is that Wales is better off in the United Kingdom for a variety of very strong and important reasons.”

‘Cheerleader’

John Griffiths was subsequently asked whether the growing independence movement could put Labour in a similar position to Scotland where they found themselves stuck between the SNP and the Conservative Party.

“I think the answer to that really Elliot is that it depends so much on what UK government does and how it responds to the fact that we now have a devolved UK and that the devolution has grown and developed,” he said.

“You know in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – although Northern Ireland obviously is a particular case for many reasons – will the  UK government acknowledge that we’ve reached this stage.

“Of course you know that it was it was Labour that introduced devolution and not the Conservatives but the Conservatives have obviously continued it, but some of us suspect they’re not particularly keen on devolution and this present government really has tried to roll back from the extent of powers that we see now at a regional level.

“And Brexit is part of that picture as well so we see worrying trends to try and reverse devolution and I think if that was to continue that would stock up support for independence in Scotland and Wales.

“If on the other hand there was a new look at the constitutional architecture that we have in the UK and a response to the growing regionalization that we have with new structures, new ways of joint decision making and pooling sovereignty that would be very different.

“I think people would see that there’s the right and the reasonable response. At the moment the signs are rather worrying I’m afraid.

“And Mark Drakeford our First Minister in Wales is very strong in saying that it is UK government of Boris Johnson that is the biggest cheerleader really for independence in Scotland and Wales because of this attempt to roll back the devolution rather than to respond to the new devolved UK that we have.”

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