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Make or break for devolution?

September 30th 2019

As part of the Gwlad festival to mark 20 years of devolution, the Bevan Foundation organised a debate with three leading politicians on 28th September.

Director of the Bevan Foundation and chair of the debate, Victoria Winckler, opened discussion by summarising the major challenges that Wales faces: demographic change, climate change, radical restructuring of the economy, rising poverty and inequality, and political and constitutional changes. The question is whether Wales is up to meet these challenges and will they be make or break.

First to contribute was Jeremy Miles AM, Counsel General for Wales. Jeremy explained how Brexit was exposing and exacerbating deep tensions between UK nations. He said he viewed the current UK union as a voluntary association between the constituent parts, and that this relationship needed to be reflected in the UK’s working arrangements e.g. with a council of ministers able to take decisions in matters affecting each jurisdiction. He argued that leaving the EU

He was followed by Joel Williams, Conservative Councillor and prospective candidate for Cardiff North at the next Assembly elections.  Joel argued that preparation for the economic challenges ahead needed to begin now. He argued particularly strongly for improvements to education, saying that Wales’ position compared poorly with that of England.

Leanne Wood reminded those present of the scale of poverty and inequality at present, with few signs that they will improve. She set out a long list of actions that needed to be taken to get Wales ready for the future. She said that it was time to start closing the ‘tax gap’ so that Wales was better able to stand on its own feet, either as an independent nation as she desired or in a new federal UK.  She challenged the Welsh Government’s recent statement on Brexit – a charge that Jeremy Miles described as ‘unfair’.

In a lively discussion that followed, those present asked about why the Welsh Government had given financial help to Ineos, whether it is possible to legislate to increase equality, and which countries inspired them. They also asked about immigration policy, preparations for Brexit and more.

 

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