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‘Wiser never to say’ Senedd is ‘subordinate’ in ‘public’, says Times columnist

12 Apr 2021 2 minutes Read
Westminster Government Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture by Annika Haas (CC BY 2.0)

It would be “wiser” for Westminster politicians to never to say that the Senedd is “subordinate”, a Times columnist has suggested.

Alex Massie advised Boris Johnson in the paper to resist the temptation to adopt a “very English unionism” and suggested it was a “question of sensibility and of tact”.

He warned that parliaments are “easily conflated with the people they serve” and that a slight on Cardiff Bay is easily perceived as a slight on the nation itself.

Massie added that the “muscular” form of unionism adopted by Westminster was “alien” to other parts of the UK – “even Wales”.

He said: “A new, more muscular ‘unionism’ is emerging that is intensely suspicious of the devolved administrations.

“This is a very English form of ‘unionism’, largely alien to unionists in Scotland or Northern Ireland or even Wales. Few unionists elsewhere either recognise it or want any part of it.

“Even if you think the devolved parliaments are subordinate, it would be wiser never to actually say so in public.”

‘Slight’ 

He added: “Parliaments are easily conflated with the people they serve, and a slight on Holyrood, Cardiff Bay or Stormont is swiftly perceived as a slight on the smaller nations.

“If this signals a certain prickliness on their part, it should also remind the elephant to remember his manners.

“The precise detail of constitutional authority matters much less than a perception that the smaller nations are overlooked, ignored and not afforded the respect they are due. Again, it is a question of sensibility and of tact.

“The UK is not formally a federal entity but de facto, and even in the absence of a codified constitution, it possesses many of the features of a federal state anyway.

“It is a country of surprising, if often unrecognised, diversity in which unitary institutions are rarer than many people, including many MPs, think.

“It has no single education system, no single system of law, no pan-UK established church; even the NHS, notionally that great symbol of British unity, is actually organised along national lines.

“Renewal will require tact and modesty and a certain generosity of spirit too.

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