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‘Wales has no great claim of maltreatment since Henry VIII’, says Guardian columnist

15 Feb 2021 3 minutes Read
Simon Jenkins at Policy Fight Club by Policy Exchange

A Guardian columnist has claimed that “Wales has no great claim of maltreatment” since the reign of Henry VIII of England.

According to Simon Jenkins “harsh and insensitive government” helped drive Ireland out of the UK, and similar dynamics are playing out in Scotland, but Wales is a different matter.

He wrote in the London-based newspaper that this is because it has it has been administered as part of one “England and Wales” and “showered with subsidies”.

Jenkins made the claims in an article about Welsh independence, support for which he said is “strengthening”.

He cited the growth of the grassroots pro-independence group, YesCymru, which has risen from 2,000 to more than 15,000 and a YouGov poll which put support for Wales becoming an independent nation at 33 per cent.

Jenkins also said that although Wales voted to leave the EU in 2016, 44 per cent would now opt to rejoin, against 38 per cent for staying out.

He said: “Debate must start by asking why independence is desired, what it would offer Wales and how those things could be achieved by other constitutional means.

“How can the argument be ‘built down’ from full independence to a feasible new relationship between neighbouring polities?

“Among many other things, it was harsh and insensitive government that helped to drive Ireland out of the United Kingdom in 1922.

“Similar governmental dynamics subsequently applied to Scotland, as with Margaret Thatcher’s poll tax and John Major’s denial of devolution.

“Wales has no great claim of maltreatment as, since Henry VIII, it has been administered as one ‘England and Wales’ and showered with subsidies.”

‘Strengthening’ 

He added: “Something unexpected is emerging from Wales: support for independence is strengthening.

“While independence is nowhere near a majority view, the impressive Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price, said at the weekend that this was precisely where support for Scottish independence was just 10 years ago, which is now in a majority.

“The devolution of lockdown policy to the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has clearly emboldened their populations.

“Senior ministers from each administration are on television raising their profiles and defending their own decisions.

“Although perceptions that the Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, has performed poorly during the pandemic has led to a fall in support for the government and the Labour party in recent months, this very fact has made Welsh people realise that at least Wales is in charge.

“Since devolution, the Welsh government’s handling of its health and education services has not shone.

“But nationalism does not care about such things. Its appeal is deep and psychological and lies in sovereignty alone.

“The Irish tried it and succeeded. The Scots seem likely to do likewise. That Wales should follow suit might seem fantastical to some. But who knows?”

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