Home England government This week’s tensions between the UK government and devolved nations

This week’s tensions between the UK government and devolved nations


DEVOLUTION faces its biggest challenge due to the direct conflicts with the central government that have been highlighted this week.

Unlike the SNP-led Scottish government, which champions policy it knows the Conservative British administration is likely to resist, the Labor government in Cardiff has found itself defending legislation it has long passed and defy its responsibilities.

Here are the direct challenges the UK government has issued to decentralization this week:

Trade union legislation

On Tuesday, Westminster announced plans to repeal the Welsh Government‘s Trade Unions Act 2017, which bans the use of agency staff if public sector workers go on strike.

The UK government says it wants equal legislation across the UK, but its proposal is seen as a response to the railway workers’ strike called by the RMT union.

Irrespective of the opposing views of the Conservative and Labor governments in London and Cardiff, the move shows the UK government‘s reluctance to accept the right of its Welsh counterpart to pass its own legislation – and underlines that rather than seeing Cardiff as a government of equal status (devolving policy areas), Westminster considers the Act to make Senedd and the executive subordinate.

Fund for Ukraine

The UK’s devolution rules are meant to be clear on funding, with money for devolved policy areas such as health and education transferred to nations and the UK government responsible for anything not decentralized, such as defense and foreign aid.

This week, however, the Welsh and Scottish governments saw their budgets cut, with the UK government immediately increasing funding to provide military aid to Ukraine.

The UK government will provide it with an additional £1bn, including £95m from the budgets of the Welsh and Scottish governments, although this is clearly outside their defined policy areas.

The decision means that money that was supposed to be spent on things like new schools or roads in Wales is instead going to anti-aircraft systems in Ukraine.

Wales Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said: “This is a new, worrying and potentially divisive approach to the Treasury – seeking to use devolved budgets, which should be earmarked for investment in decentralized areas, such as health and education, to fund earmarked spending areas such as military aid and defence. Funding for these areas should rightly be provided by the UK government.

The Welsh Government says it has (reluctantly) accepted the reallocation of its funding and said: ‘We have accepted this situation in light of our continued commitment to supporting Ukraine and the people of Ukraine in their fight against this act. of senseless aggression, but that should not be a precedent.

“This funding has not been provided by the Welsh Government underspending, but will result in some difficult decisions to be made regarding our limited capital budget.”

The UK Government’s position is that the Welsh Government was aware of the decision and did not object to it.

Additional Funding for Adult Numeracy

What Westminster is taking with one hand… As Cardiff and the Treasury tussle over funding for Ukraine, it has also emerged that Westminster’s Department of Education needs to spend money on what is a area of ​​responsibility of the Welsh Government.

The Westminster department will allocate £101million to its Multiply adult numeracy program in Wales.


But, at the Senedd Finance Committee hearing, Labor MS Rhianon Passmore wanted to know why Westminster was taking responsibility for a Welsh Government function.

Simon Hart, the Conservative Secretary of State for Wales, said it was “a nice problem to have” and that the UK Government’s aim is to improve adult literacy, and this will involve (at a later stage) the Welsh Government.

He said he didn’t want improving people’s math skills to get lost in technicalities about what is “within or without the terms of the vesting settlement.” Although the Welsh Act 2017 makes it clear that the education of job seekers is the responsibility of the Welsh Government.

But the problem remains that the UK Government is encroaching on an area which is the responsibility of the Welsh Government and for which it should be accountable to the Senedd.

And as Passmore sought to clarify at the committee meeting, is £100m in addition to the Welsh Government’s £585m share of the UK’s Shared Prosperity Fund (a replacement European funding) or a percentage of it?

Eventually, Under Secretary of State David Davies acknowledged, “I think that’s probably the case”, although he promised to find out and write to the committee.

The fact that the UK government has additionally directed how Welsh government funds are spent goes to the heart of the matter, as whoever controls the purse strings holds the power.

The decision echoes an earlier line, dating back to 2015, when the UK government unilaterally imposed an apprenticeship levy on large employers, including the public sector, to create funds for apprenticeships, which are again devolved.

It was a taste of how the UK would function after Brexit, with the UK government making unilateral decisions, viewing it and the UK Parliament as supreme rather than an equal partner to the devolved nations.

The takeover of EU funds which previously flowed directly into Cardiff and other UK capitals has seriously undermined the financial power of devolved nations, it now looks like the UK government wants to say how, at least some , of these funds are spent.

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