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Independence may be a viable option, but not a desirable one according to First Minister

31 Jan 2024 4 minute read
First Minister, Mark Drakeford

Chris Haines ICNN Senedd reporter

Independence may be a viable option, but it would not be a desirable one, the first minister said as he responded to a commission on Wales’ constitutional future.

Mark Drakeford gave a statement to the Senedd about the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales.

The commission’s final report, which was published on January 18, made 10 recommendations to strengthen democracy and protect devolution.

Three options

Chaired by Prof Laura McAllister and Dr Rowan Williams, the commission identified three viable options for the future: enhanced devolution, a federal UK and Welsh independence.

Mark Drakeford said: “The report does indeed say that independence is a viable option but in some ways that’s not the real question, is it?

“It’s not whether it’s viable, it’s whether it’s desirable. And I am very clear, the reason I don’t believe in independence is because I don’t think it’s desirable for Wales.

“I don’t believe in building new barriers.

“I don’t believe in creating new borders when borders don’t exist.”

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies raised comments from Jo Stevens, Labour’s shadow Welsh secretary, who dismissed a key recommendation on devolution of policing and justice.

He said: “This is a major tenet of this piece of work that has been undertaken by the commission on behalf of the Welsh Government in looking at further powers of devolution.”

‘Untenable’

Rhun ap Iorwerth said the report has been a game changer in terms of redefining the constitutional debate, giving it more urgency and impetus.

The Plaid Cymru leader told MSs the commission has established a new evidence base showing that independence is a viable and achievable option for Wales.

Warning that the status quo is untenable, he pointed out that all three options carry risks as he argued that membership of the UK has delivered entrenched poverty for Wales.

He said: “Without access to all the levers we need to change our economic fortunes, our story is likely to continue to be one of stagnation and managed decline, and with the full range of powers that only independence ultimately can deliver, we can change the story.”

Mr Iorwerth accused Jeremy Miles and Vaughan Gething, the two candidates to become the next first minister, of “total radio silence” on the commission’s findings.

‘Danger’

Alun Davies, who represents Blaenau Gwent, raised the need to persuade Labour colleagues of the urgency of the constitutional debate if the party wins the next election.

Prof Drakeford said: “There’s always a danger that … people will believe that because the Conservatives have been defeated, somehow the constitutional job is done.”

Tom Giffard, the Conservative MS for South Wales West, raised concerns that the report has cost a total of £1.5m so far, “becoming the most expensive dust gatherer of all time”.

Mr Giffard urged the first minister to rule out establishing a permanent constitutional commission as suggested by Rhun ap Iorwerth.

Prof Drakeford said it is important that the conversation continues but he stopped short of committing to a standing commission during the statement on January 30.

Innovation

Calling for democratic innovation, Adam Price, the former Plaid Cymru leader, said: “Wales is a land of commissions, as the commission says.

“But it does suggest the need for something more durable, more permanent than a series of commissions over the years if we are to continuously improve our democratic health.”

Prof Drakeford agreed about the need to revitalise democracy, which “only flourishes if you tend the garden in which it is sown”, saying that is what the report was intended to do.

Darren Millar, the Conservatives’ shadow constitution minister, raised the commission’s focus on poor relationships between the Welsh and UK Governments.

Prof Drakeford acknowledged the tone of intergovernmental relationships has improved since Rishi Sunak became prime minister.

The first minister told MSs: “He does have a greater willingness to recognise that the UK is made up of different component parts and deserve respect. But it has to be more than that.”

He said a council of ministers, which took five years to agree after being commissioned by Theresa May, did not meet once in 2023 despite the cost of living and other crises.


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
26 days ago

The First Minister appears beguiled by the trickster in 10 Downing St…

The Final Brexit…

You pays your money and takes the chance…

Kathleen
Kathleen
26 days ago

Welsh Labour has officially abandoned Cymru. They are too happy with their cosy situation where they are able to blame any problems in Cymru on Westminster. The fact is that Mark Drakeford, despite his many fine qualities, was and is afraid of the responsibility of independence. He sees himself and all of Cymru’s politicians as infants who cannot look after this country and thus, by extension, deems all of us who would be citizens of Cymru as infantile. The fact is this: The UK, as we knew it before 2012 is dead and gone forever, whether you thought it was… Read more »

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
26 days ago
Reply to  Kathleen

Kathleen, it’s England or Lloegr if you must, but NOT ‘Saesneg’ which refers only to the English language. Likewise, there is no need to refer to Labour as Saesneg Labour, as it’s just Labour when talking about the UK party.

Great that you use termau Cymraeg, but please use them correctly. Diolch.

Stevie B
Stevie B
26 days ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

A rather churlish comment. Please let people be free to comment as they wish. I am a monoglot English speaker learning Cymraeg, one of the biggest issues is having the confidence to express yourself in Cymraeg. Do you correct all of the incidences of poor use of English in the comments?

CapM
CapM
25 days ago
Reply to  Stevie B

If you see someone with their fly undone do you tell them or not.
Using “Saesneg” for England is a bit of an open fly situation.
Surely it’s unfair to resent it being pointed out.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
26 days ago

The border ‘bogey’ is an easy one to dispel. Anyone who has been to Europe and travelled through the Schengen zone knows just how easily it is to pass from one country to another; often it’s like passing from Powys to Gwynedd and though border checks are made, most often they are not. Even closer to home, are there border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic? I’m sure they exist, but like in the Schengen zone, mostly the only way you’ll know you’re one side or the other is the road signs being in kilometers or miles. The idea… Read more »

Last edited 26 days ago by Padi Phillips
Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
26 days ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

Well said Paddy, you beat me to it! I remember a comment made during the time of the Holtham Report that we have a problem…a porous border. Not surprisingly, this nonsense has been repeated constantly by the Tories who fail to understand that all borders are porous – drive around Europe! Now, disappointingly the First Minister has reversed the argument and suggested the opposite, the establishment of borders! I’m beginning to think that those opposed to independence are running out of ideas and reverting to nonsense. In an article last year on Scottish independence, The Economist, which should know better,… Read more »

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
26 days ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

And for that matter the porous border that exists between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
26 days ago

The dependency culture and inferiority complex is so entrenched in the Welsh psyche. 800 years of mental colonisation. Come on Mrak Drakeford. Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. Come on Mark Drakeford. Wont you help to sing these songs of freedom!!!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
26 days ago
Reply to  Rhufawn Jones

In the space of five minutes on the steps of Davy Jones’ Locker the other day I attempted to encapsulate 500 years of Hanes Cymru for the edification of a group of visitors…

The Mawddach, don’t you just love it…

robin campbell
robin campbell
26 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Is Drakeford afraid that we’ll march into Herefordshire first chance we get?

hdavies15
hdavies15
25 days ago
Reply to  robin campbell

When it comes to having belief in his own nation Drakeford is running on empty.

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
26 days ago

I believe that the continuing pressure on devolution by the Tories, coupled with the likelihood of Starmer continuing that policy, will ultimately rebound on Westminster and harden the Welsh public’s attitude in defence of devolution. There will come a time when it will break out into open constitutional “warfare”. At the moment it’s more in the nature of a cold war which the Tories are inevitably winning. Devolution will be a major electoral issue in the next Senedd election.

Alun
Alun
26 days ago

The key point is surely that the First Minister now acknowledges that independence is a viable option. So we can finally dispense with all the ‘too small, too poor’ arguments and move on to whether we want it. Another step forward.

CapM
CapM
26 days ago

Or did he mean
The report does indeed say that independence is a viable option but in some ways that’s not the real question, is it?
It’s not whether it’s viable, it’s whether it’s desirable. And I am very clear, the reason I don’t believe in independence is because I don’t think it’s desirable for the Labour Party..
I don’t believe in building new responsibilities .
I don’t believe in creating new responsibilities where responsibilities don’t exist.

If the Labour government in Wales was responsible for everything we’d have no-one to blame.

hdavies15
hdavies15
25 days ago
Reply to  CapM

Sums it up neatly. Gutless and subservient.

Riki
Riki
26 days ago

Imagine still being this delusional, after all the damage the UK government has done to Wales in the last 10 years alone. Never mind the last few centuries. I am still yet to hear an example of what Wales gets out of being in this illegal union built on annexation. We have had our Coal, Slate and Gold taken for the sole advantage of south east England! We have had our Villages drown for Liverpool! Our children beat for speaking their own language! What more must they do and say for us to all wake up? Ireland is respected world… Read more »

Last edited 26 days ago by Riki
Gareth
Gareth
26 days ago

From the moment he came into office, everything he has done has been dictated to him, by the policies of a rightwing Tory gov who’s only policy has been ” austerity “. He has been ignored by successive PM ‘s and most recently ridiculed by the Tory’s. He has seen billions readily given to Scotland and N Ireland ( HS2 cash) while we are denied, powers given to mayors in England, again we are denied, and yet he sees this as more desirable than making our own policies that benefit us, having the powers to borrow to be able to… Read more »

MattJ
MattJ
26 days ago

Labour party first, Cymru second.

Can’t have Labour losing all those Westminster seats.

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
26 days ago

Mark Drakeford has said on several occasions he sees the UK as an insurance policy for Cymru. How can people in Cymru have confidence in themselves if their leaders don’t have confidence in them. In the 45 years since I first voted, the Tories have been in power for over 70% of the time. Over 70% of my adult life governed by those community wreckers. Drakeford wants to be a part of that! He is naive in the extreme to think in the next 45 years that the Tories won’t have that kind of dominance over the UK.

Stevie B
Stevie B
26 days ago

Mark Drakeford please get up of your knees

Annibendod
Annibendod
26 days ago

Mark Drakeford has not a leg to stand on wrt this matter. “Not desirable”? What tosh. The report makes it clear that independence is the best way to improve our economic lot in the medium to long term. Why would that be undesirable? And that old chestnut about “borders”! Oh, for goodnessakes! Just look at the EU. This is exactly why I support Plaid Cymru’s policy of pursuing a British Confederation. That is a framework in which the British nations are in full posession of their statehood and participate willingly and equally in joint areas. Also need to get back… Read more »

Marc
Marc
25 days ago

The genie is out of the bottle and no one will be able to put it back in

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
25 days ago

Independence is the only avenue which Wales can go being part of this disunited union has done sweet F A for Wales

Gwyn Hopkins
Gwyn Hopkins
25 days ago

Mark Drakeford says that Independence for Wales would not be a desirable option implying that he believes that Wales’ current – bottom of the UK pecking order – political situation is a better option. England has well over 80% of the UK’s population and its MPs, which is also the case with the governing Tory party and Labour opposition party MPs. These English majorities are absolutely massive, overwhelming and unassailable, meaning that England unquestionably has ultimate power and control over the UK while it exists. What a demeaning and subservient choice for our country, Wales.

Why vote
Why vote
25 days ago

What a statement, I thought it was one of the reasons the sennedd was set up, it explains a lot about how Labour has governed wales over the last five years. New legislation instigated by a no point in caring party leader. Hope the next one will be better. Wonder which party will win the sennedd elections.

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