Mark Drakeford last night said he was going to send a second letter to Boris Johnson warning that it will be the Welsh Government that will legislate to take action to stop people from high-covid areas in England coming into Wales.
When devolution came into existence, I cannot think many imagined the scenario where the Welsh Parliament, still as part of the United Kingdom, would have the power to erect de-facto border infrastructure. Of course Drakeford denies this and says it is all in the name of “public health”, but what is the evidence that “the English” are bringing COVID into Wales? The calls for evidence over 10pm curfews and pub closures were asked of Welsh Government- there needs to be the same calls over this. If such evidence is not forthcoming, it is no more than dirty politics- making a scapegoat out of England for Wales’ increase in infections. It is not England that has allowed COVID to spread through hospitals leading to many deaths or that decided to lockdown eighty percent of Wales’ people.
Of course this is a nationalist pipe-dream. Not even they in their wildest dreams could have thought up a situation, with a Welsh First Minister standing up to their perceived imperial commanders in Westminster. It has taken a deadly pandemic for separatists to lick their lips and have a taste of what an independent Wales could look like. But whilst this may whet the appetite of the nationalists, it certainly does not do it for me. Only last week I drove through Mid Wales to Hereford through Rhayader and Kington. And as I ventured westward from Herefordshire a few days later to Pembrokeshire, I took in the beautiful nature around the River Wye and the rich history of the counties of Radnorshire and Brecknockshire, as well as the luscious scenery of Carmarthenshire.
The border between Wales and England is porous, with its peoples interdependent on one another, yes for business in the form of trade and commuting, but also for the simple human pleasures of nipping over for long walks, lazy Sunday lunches or quick staycations in my case. The problem posed for us unionists is that if Welsh Government has the power to impose restrictions between England and Wales once, they can do so again, all under the innocent cause of protecting us from a medical harm.
We need a non-ideological approach to devolution. Powers should flow freely depending on who is best to carry them out- whether that be local authority, Cardiff or Westminster. People want decisions made based on the merits of them not where they are made. But on this particular issue, however good or noble his intentions are, the Welsh First Minister having the power to block other people coming in from the United Kingdom is the final straw.
Pandemic response being a devolved matter, save for the electorate’s judgements on the performances of Welsh and UK Government, has been a constitutional disaster. There should be complete clarity for our peoples up and down Great Britain in a time of great emergency. It is why in my view, in emergency times, powers such as these should be reserved for the British executive, not left to the likes of Drakeford and Sturgeon who have used this pandemic to their own ends and means.