Rishi Sunak happy to circumvent devolution, prominent support says
Rishi Sunak should be made Prime Minister because he is happy to circumvent devolution, one of his prominent supporters have said.
Scottish MP Andrew Bowie said that Rishi Sunak was his choice for leader because he was a “unionist to his core” and his family “never saw themselves as anything but British”.
He said that it was Rishi Sunak’s idea to give levelling up funds directly to local authorities rather than allowing the devolved parliaments to decide how they should be spent as was the case with EU funds.
The move was described by the Institute of Welsh Affairs think tank as a “deliberate retrenchment of devolution to Wales”.
The majority of ‘levelling up’ funds for Wales announced last October subsequently went to Conservative constituencies, including £13.3m for the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site and £15.4m for the Montgomery Canal Restoration.
The Conservatives won 14 of 40 seats in Wales at the 2019 General Election but Tory seats received over 60% – £73.2m – of the levelling up cash.
Writing in the Times, Andrew Bowie said that Rishi Sunak was the “only one with the experience necessary” to “ensure our United Kingdom — our one nation — remains whole”.
“Unlike the other candidates, he not only speaks about the Union in easy platitudinous phrases that make us feel good about ourselves and our past, he has taken action to govern for our whole United Kingdom and is confident about our future,” he said.
“Wrapping ourselves in the Union Jack and humming Land of Hope and Glory will not keep the United Kingdom whole.
“We will do that by our actions, and Rishi’s actions speak louder than his words.
“He has led the pushback against the ‘devolve and forget’ mentality that permeates Whitehall.”
Wales’ economy minister Vaughan Gething had previously described the plan to decision to bypass the Welsh Government and directly allocate funding via UK-wide funds as a “deliberate assault on Welsh devolution”.
Speaking in the Senedd in June, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said: “These UK proposals represent a new era of aggressive centralisation. One that deliver a very clear, message to Wales: ‘you’ll get what you’re given.’
“It’s an approach that provokes division based on an economic rationale that is difficult to identify, let alone endorse.
“Worse still, this top down, throwback to pre devolution economic policy is a deliberate assault on Welsh devolution. As things stand, Wales is set to have less say, over less money.”
A report published by a Westminster committee last month called on the UK Government to work more closely with the devolved governments on allocating the funds.
The report said that they “were sceptical about how close past cooperation with devolved Governments had really been and the extent to which it enabled national priorities to be accommodated, though we acknowledged that co-operation between officials appeared to have improved”.
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