Friday, October 03, 2008

There must always be a voice in government singing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau

The latest piece of news about the reshuffle that I've heard is that the proposal to merge the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland into a single "Secretary of State for the Nations" (so those three are and England isn't?!) has been put on hold for the time being. And here's hoping that it stays on hold forever.

Devolution may have reduced some of the workload for the posts, but there is one key role that each holds. They are the voice of the respective nations in government, lobbying for funds, projects and so forth. They are a voice for each at the Cabinet table, ensuring that no part of the United Kingdom is pushed aside to the margins. Under devolution the posts become more, not less, important than before.

A single "Secretary of State for the Nations" would diminish this. It would diminish the voices of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in government and set them against each other. The individual appointed would inevitably face accusations of being biased towards their own patch. None would be well served by this arrangement.

The retention of the three separate posts (and, if necessary, their restoration) must be essential in future reshuffles and changes of government.

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