UK Gov should look to Drakeford to save the union, says ex Whitehall chief
The UK Government should look to Mark Drakeford to save the union, according to a former Whitehall chief.
Professor Ciaran Martin, who was the constitution director at the Cabinet Office, said if he was advising the UK Government now “would be looking at Wales” for a strategy on “shoring up” the union.
According to the prof, who is one of the UK’s foremost constitution experts, the Welsh Government is both “pro-devolution but it’s profoundly Unionist”.
Martin, now a professor at the University of Oxford, and helped to forge the Edinburgh Agreement, which paved the way for the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, was speaking on the Scotsman’s The Steamie podcast when he made his comments.
Martin told the podcast that he thought Boris Johnson’s Tory government “basically hates” devolution.
Drakeford has attacked the UK Government for acting in an “aggressively unilateral way” which “inevitably creates anger and alienation”.
He pointed to the Internal Market Act which took powers over funding away from the Senedd and centralised them in Westminster as an example of this, and has called for the union to be based on a “partnership of equals”.
‘Wales has a role’
Martin said: “The situation in Wales has a role to play. If I was advising the Government now, the UK Government, on its shoring up the Union strategy, I would be looking at Wales.
“This is a profoundly Unionist Labour administration, it’s pro-devolution but it’s profoundly Unionist.
“When you have [First Minister] Mark Drakeford saying ‘this Government doesn’t understand devolution, it’s not comfortable with it, it basically hates it’. A: I think he’s right. And B: If you can’t make devolution work in Wales, the signal there in Scotland is terrible.”
Martin added: “One of the things I think is underpriced in all of this is, it’s very easy to mock and criticise the UK Government for getting Scotland wrong of course, but it doesn’t have, and I’m not criticising the SNP for this, the SNP is a pro-independence party and it makes no secret of that, but it doesn’t have a good-faith partner in making the UK work, but it does in Cardiff.
“[Welsh Labour] may be a political opponent, but it’s a Unionist party, and if they can’t make it work with them, where can they make it work?
“I think that’s why … if the Conservatives, if the muscular Unionist wing of the Conservatives wins out then a Better Together campaign is impossible, because they want two different versions of a No vote.”