Wales and England diverged on Covid because the Welsh have a greater ‘social solidarity’ says Drakeford
Wales and England diverged in their Covid responses because Wales has a “greater attachment to collective ways of doing things” and a “powerful sense of social solidarity” compared with the Conservatives who believe that “individual freedom trumps everything else,” the First Minister has said.
Mark Drakeford was asked on Radio 4 Today whether his decision to impose restrictions in Wales that did not exist in England was a means of political point-scoring.
He said that he believed in the United Kingdom but that the covid pandemic had brought already existing differences to the surface.
“The decisions we make in Wales are only ever based on the advice we get from our chief medical officer and our scientists,” he said. “We just take a different approach to the same knowledge.
“In Wales, we still have a greater attachment to collective ways of doing things. A powerful sense of social solidarity. An understanding that what matters to any one of us are the things that matter to us all.
“And we don’t have the same attraction that you see Conservative politicians having to that sense of individual freedom trumping everything else.”
He added: “I believe in the United Kingdom, and I think there’s a compelling case to be made that would maker people want to be part of that sort of United Kingdom.
“But the pandemic has drawn to the surface that for 20 years in Wales we’ve been making our own decisions, doing this in a way that allows us to craft our own decisions that meet our own circumstances.
“So in some ways I don’t think it has changed the fundamentals but it has drawn them to the surface and made them visible in a way that perhaps those things weren’t visible, even to the people of Wales, let alone outside.”
The First Ministers was asked whether more powers were needed for the semi-autonomous nations to keep the United Kingdom from breaking up.
“I don’t think for me it is so much a matter of powers,” he said. “It is about respect.
“It is about having a set of institutional relationships in which we’re able to get around the table together, and where the different responsibilities that we have are respected by one another.
“We have stumbled our way through the Coronavirus experience with one-off ad hoc make and mend arrangements for making the United Kingdom work. And that really will not sustain the United Kingdom into the future.
“We need a set of intergovernmental relationships that are reliable and respectful. And that what we can get around the table together. It’s far, far more that we have in common than divides us. And that’s why as I say I’m a believer in the United Kingdom, a successful United Kingdom, where there is powerful devolution but at the same time we pool our resources, share out the rewards and do the things together that keep us all stronger.”
Asked if he was in favour of devolving powers over welfare, he said: “I think there are some things that you need to do at a UK level because those are the things that keep the UK together. And a strong social security system, and a redistributive tax and benefits system, are for me among the reasons for wanting to belong and live in the United Kingdom.
“There are many things we are able to do with our own powers, but a tax and benefits system that operates across the UK, so that wherever you live you have a guarantee that you will not fall below that basic minimum, is part of what makes the UK worthwhile.”
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