Shadow minister tells Senedd independence and further devolution is a Plaid Cymru ‘vanity project’
Welsh Conservative Janet Finch-Saunders told the Senedd that independence and further devolution “is a vanity project by Plaid Cymru” during questions to Wales’ Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution Mick Antoniw MS, in the Senedd yesterday.
Wales’s Counsellor General and Minister for the Constitution Mick Antoniw MS, was taking questions in the Senedd yesterday (7 December) when Mrs Finch-Saunders proceeded to twist the knife into her Plaid colleagues.
Mabon ap Gwynfor MS had kicked off the debate when he asked the Counsellor General for his assessment regarding, “The implications for Wales on the Supreme Court ruling on Scotland’s right to call a referendum on its constitutional future”.
Mr Antoniw – who was a practising solicitor before being elected MS for Pontypridd – pointed out, that the judgement was “specific” to the situation in Scotland.
He added: “I don’t think it will have any implication to the interpretation of the Welsh settlement. The Supreme Court was very clear that it was not departing from its previous approach to such issues.”
Thanking him for his response, Mabon ap Gwynfor asked: “Does the Counsellor General believe that the UK is a voluntary association of four nations? What will this government do to demonstrate how it’s possible to redraw the UK in a way that shows it is a voluntary association?”
Mr Antoniw said the Dwyfor Meirionnydd MS had “raised an important constitutional point … My position is, if you have a parliament that elects people, that has a mandate from the people, then sovereignty cannot be anything other than shared. The point I would make is that we have a constitution that is outdated and dysfunctional.”
But he added: “I think there’s a need for a very radical reform – I’m considering (several reports and commentary) and I’m hoping to make an oral statement to this Senedd in January.”
Janet Finch-Saunders, the Shadow Minister for Climate Change, was next. She seemed delighted with the the recent Supreme Court ruling on Scotland’s right to call an independence referendum.
She said: “It essentially means that Wales cannot hold an independence referendum without Westminster approval,” she smiled, before continuing.
“Every time the independence question is put to the people of Wales, and most recently in 2021 the party who made those offers came a distant third.”
She was enjoying this, “The people of Wales have spoken with one voice saying they want to remain in a strong United Kingdom. Like me, do you agree that unlike Plaid Cymru, who continue to speak about further devolution and independence nearly on a weekly basis, that no further resources, and time, should be wasted on this constitutional question … and this vanity project by Plaid Cymru.”
The Counsellor General told Finch-Saunders that she was indeed right in her interpretation of the Supreme Court Ruling.
“Where I think you’re wrong though, is in saying everything is fine and that there aren’t any major constitutional problems, and constitutional reform issues that need to be addressed.”
The Counsellor General pointed out to her: “It is recognised across all political parties, and many other commentators and members of the public that what we have at the moment is not working, it’s outdated and it needs reform.”
Mrs Finch-Saunders mumbled something about sorting out “health” and “transport” then crossed her arms.
The Counsellor General was sorry, he said, that she though constitutional matters were unimportant, and proceeded to explain it to her.
“If they were not important, we wouldn’t have the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, we wouldn’t have the Retained EU Law Bill. We also wouldn’t have the Bill of Rights legislation that is being proposed.
“And we wouldn’t be consistently taking about the issues that have emerged over the last six years as regards to Brexit. Those are all constitutional matters and they do impact on people’s lives. What we are doing is looking at the way in which our relationship with the rest of the UK works …”
It’s unclear whether she was still smiling because the camera turned to hear another long-winded question from Rhys ab Owen MS.
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