Salmond, Paisley, Adams - but not Jones

One of the problems about devolution, raised across the political spectrum, is that many in the centre have treated Devolution as an event. It concerned Whitehall in 1979 when it was happening, but now it is long forgotten. Ministers and their mandarins make decisions without any consideration given to the existence of the devolved bodies.

The media is much the same. When health, education or cultural announcements are made by the ministers responsible for these issues in England they are reported as "British news", without the qualifier that they are purely English announcements. The Welsh media fairs no better than the London media in this respect. Sunday's Waterfront, for example, included a discussion about re-introducing museum charges, despite the fact that this is a devolved matter and not a matter of debate in Wales.

One of the reasons for this has been that the functions of the Northern Ireland Assembly have been has been administered by a Labour minister and the Scottish and Welsh First Ministers have been Labour representatives. Agreements that have been made have been made through informal party mechanisms, rather than through formal inter governmental mechanisms. When Labour Ministers have made a cock-up in announcing changes in Wales and Scotland before consultation, we have seen the farce of Welsh and Scottish ministers announcing, after the fact, that that is what they would have done anyway, in order to save the face of a party colleague.

With Ian Paisley in charge in Northern Ireland and Alex Salmond in charge in Scotland, this state of affairs cannot continue with respect to those two countries. To this end the First Ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland had an historic meeting yesterday to discuss ways of insuring that their responsibilities are no longer ignored by Westminster and means of joining together to lobby Whitehall on reserved issues.

One of the arguments put forward by the Red-Green supporters in Plaid is that only Labour can deliver a referendum on extra powers for the National Assembly. They see these extra powers as an essential part of improving the devolution settlement and as a major step in the process of nation building. However Scotland has enjoyed many more powers than can be obtained through the Government of Wales Act referendum for eight years, but yet Scotland has been ignored.

Having a non Labour First Minister who can join in a tripartite alliance with his Scottish and Northern Irish counterpart to ensure that the present settlement is given full heed in Westminster might do a lot more for strengthening the settlement and nation building than would gaining extra powers that are ignored.

Allowing Ieuan Wyn Jones to join forces with Salmond, Paisley and Adams could be of far greater constitutional significance for Wales than Jones joining forces with Numpti Morgan and seeing Wales sidelined again by the Labour old pals act.

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