Devolution and Disunity in the Time of Coronavirus | Henry Lloyd

Can I say it? Devolution is crap; well at least I think that’s an acceptable word to use now in publication, especially after the number of vocal slip-ups in the virtual House of Commons last week. The fact is, and we have all been thinking it in recent weeks, is that for coronavirus, devolution does not work when trying to send a unified message across the country. Last Sunday, I tweeted that Boris Johnson looked very much like the First Minister of England, something I thought was a completely original idea, up until I heard it being discussed on Radio 4 during the week.

It’s not a secret to anyone that Nicola Sturgeon especially has been using the coronavirus outbreak as a way of furthering the political divide between Westminster and Holyrood, as well as strengthening her own political appearance amongst voters. As Diane Abbott put it, “White people love playing divide and rule”, which in Ms Sturgeon’s case is appearing to be very true at the present time. Repeatedly holding her post-COBRA press conferences at the beginning of the outbreak, before Downing Street could hold theirs, she has managed to control the narrative on the action plan for Scotland from the very beginning.

Her message, to put it out there, that she overtly disagreed with the Prime Minister’s decision to drop ‘Stay Home’ made it evidently clear that she wishes to continue Scotland’s coronavirus protection program on a different trajectory than to the rest of Britain. To the common man or woman in Britain – the kind who have even contemplated that 5G could even possibly be a cause of coronavirus – this shows Boris Johnson to be weak in his control of the other nations of the United Kingdom. The fact is, however, what Scotland is not shouting about is their care home deaths are nearly twice as high as they are in England. Even with their ‘Stay Home’ message being continued, there are still small pockets of resistance to the government’s programs popping up to protest the establishment, and finally that the other nations who have chosen to follow in the footsteps of Scotland, looking at you Wales, have made some crucial errors when trying to play in the big leagues with Sturgeon and Johnson.

The fact that Mark Drakeford, who should be fully aware of the Welsh Assembly’s devolved coronavirus policy, managed to confuse his messaging during a press conference, with the advice of Public Health England, at the same time, claiming he was confused about England’s own proposals, saying:

“It has been the case throughout coronavirus in Wales that if you as an individual are out taking exercise you can, at a social distance, have contact with one other person. We always said that two people can interact in that way and if you did as I did go on my bicycle to my allotment through one of the major fields in Cardiff then you see people doing that all the time.”

When the confused reporter for WalesOnline asked the First Minister to clarify his point he said:

“You can’t go above two, once you go above two, in our definition it is a gathering and gatherings are not allowed.”

Yet this was completely contradicted by a later statement from a spokesperson for the Welsh government who said that going to see family and friends was not a reasonable excuse for going out and leaving your home.

I think that this level of confusion, if it is affecting one of the most important senior politicians in the country is testament to how much Tony Blair and his devolution of the late 1990s has terminally afflicted Britain with its own virus, except unlike Covid-19, devolution is a growing, incurable, ticking time bomb, which could threaten the very existence of Britain and the Union. If Nicola Sturgeon manages to pull this off and is not vilified for her handling of the situation in Scotland, or if she successfully manages to somehow pass on the blame of the coronavirus consequences in Scotland to Boris, then her renewed case for independence may actually carry some weight.

Photo by André von Mühlen on Flickr. 

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