Calls emerge for Wales to hold a post-pandemic independence referendum

Richard Wheeler and Lewis McKenzie, PA Political Staff
·2-min read

The UK Government has faced calls to allow Wales to hold a post-pandemic independence referendum, amid criticism of First Minister Mark Drakeford for doubting the union.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart told MPs that he expected voters to give a “resounding endorsement of the union” at May’s Welsh Parliament elections.

But SNP MP Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow North East) replied: “The Labour First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, told the Welsh Affairs Committee a few weeks ago that devolution is under aggressive attack by a Tory Government that has, what he called, ‘outright hostility’ at the heart of its governance.

“With independence currently polling as high as 40% in Wales without an official campaign, will the minister respect the democratic rights of people in Wales and in Scotland to have a post-pandemic independence referendum in the event of pro-independence majorities in May?”

The beach at Tenby, Wales (Ben Birchall/PA)
The beach at Tenby, Wales (Ben Birchall/PA)

Mr Hart replied: “I think the First Minister has been pretty reckless in trying to inject an air of uncertainty into these discussions.

“And I think most of us realise he’s only doing that because his only chance of remaining as First Minister post-May is to do some kind of a deal with Plaid Cymru and we know what the price of that will be.”

Mr Hart earlier accused the Welsh Government of “dragging its feet” over new freeport opportunities and urged them to “come to the party”.

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford (House of Commons/PA)
First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford (House of Commons/PA)

He said: “Local authorities are keen on this initiative, port authorities are keen on them, they can produce up to 15,000 jobs so it is disappointing that the Welsh Government seems to be still dragging its feet around this and allowing this initiative to flourish everywhere else other than Wales – and that’s costing jobs and livelihoods.”

Labour’s Geraint Davies (Swansea West) warned a freeport at Liverpool will “sap and displace” trade, investment and jobs from Holyhead and North Wales, as he asked for the country to receive its “fair share” of funding.

He said: “Liverpool will get £26 million of investment whereas in Wales we’re only being offered £8 million for one UK freeport either in North or South Wales.”

The seafront at Llandudno (Peter Byrne/PA)
The seafront at Llandudno (Peter Byrne/PA)

Mr Hart replied: “The best way of avoiding that outcome is for the Welsh Government to get behind the scheme, support a project which is endorsed by local authorities and port authorities in Wales, and encourage jobs and livelihoods that way.

“But every day they leave it on the basis of this ‘not invented here syndrome’, it is going to cost jobs and livelihoods.

“My message to (Mr Davies) is get hold of the Welsh Government and encourage them to come to the party.”