‘Stop talking about devolution’ urges Welsh FM

WELSH First Minister Carwyn Jones has called for the Union of the United Kingdom to be remade and for politicians to “stop talking about devolution”.

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones wants the Union of the United Kingdom remade. Picture: Jane Barlow
Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones wants the Union of the United Kingdom remade. Picture: Jane Barlow

In a speech in London, Mr Jones, who first came up with the idea of a constitutional convention for the whole of the UK, warned that devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had created a new “popular sovereignty” which should mean an end to the centralised state.

The Welsh First Minister appeared to put himself in the camp of federalists wanting to see the constituent parts of the UK make most of the decisions for themselves saying that he wants to “change for the very reason that I want the component parts of the UK to stay together.”

He told his audience at the Institute for Government: “After the [Scottish] referendum, can we meet the challenge of reforming the Union? Or do we do the minimum necessary to honour the pledges given to Scotland and hope the problem goes away.

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“[Let’s] stop talking about devolution, whether it’s to Scotland or Wales, and let’s start thinking about the union – the future of the new union – and that of course means looking at what that means for England as well.”

He went on: “Public support for the devolved parliament and assemblies has created a presumption of popular sovereignty in the different parts of the UK, which has fundamentally challenged assumptions about a centralised British state.

“That is so much the case that I believe we should stop talking about devolution in terms of what powers can be handed down by a reluctant Whitehall, and start talking about the new union, and the issues we must share with each other.”

But Mr Jones also renewed his calls for an end to the Barnett Formula which he believes gives Wales to little and Scotland too much of the UK’s resources.

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He said: “It’s, frankly, the constitutional equivalent of fixing a hole in the roof with blue tack and cardboard.”

Making the case for “federal thinking,” he said: “Enabling unity while guaranteeing diversity is precisely the challenge that we face.

“The old union starts the discussion in the wrong place, because it starts with a presumption of centralisation and undivided sovereignty.

“By contrast, the new union starts from a premise of diversity and the legitimacy of different tiers of government.

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“Now that we have democratic mandates at different territorial levels, we need to rethink where power lies and genuinely embrace multi-level sovereignty.”