Whitehall must make radical changes to catch up with devolution or face enormous implications for the future of the Union, the First Minister will today tell the Institute for Government, in an event to mark 20 years of devolution.
First Minister Mark Drakeford will say the UK is currently in a ‘no man’s land’ – with devolution in Scotland and Wales developing rapidly over the past 20 years while the UK government barely recognises devolution as a constitutional principle.
Pointing towards the outdated role of the Territorial Offices as an example of this, the First Minister will call for their reform, arguing their current form confuses and gets in the way of negotiations between the devolved administrations and UK government departments.
The First Minister will say:
“The role of the Wales and Scotland Offices need to be radically rethought. While 20 years of devolution has changed so much in Wales and Scotland, the Territorial Offices remain exactly the same as they were in 1999. This is counter-productive to the constitutional wellbeing of the UK.
“The Territorial Offices currently have neither the knowledge, resources nor expertise to make a distinctive contribution which adds value to government on a day-to-day basis. We only need to look at the disappointments of the Great Western mainline electrification, the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and Wylfa to see just how this current system is failing to protect Wales’ interests.”
The First Minister will also explore the impact Brexit will have on devolution in the keynote speech. He will describe how the UK will be entering into a far wider range of international agreements, with many touching on devolved areas, like the environment and fisheries.
He will say:
“This is a constitutional moment for the UK. The next few months could be of historic importance, not only in terms of the UK’s relationship with Europe, but the UK’s relationship with itself.
“The current culture, institutions and process of governance are not compatible with the long-term health of the Union. Radical change is needed – the future of devolution and our Union lies in a real acceptance of devolution as a partnership in the governance of the United Kingdom. We must seize this opportunity to create it.”