Brexit and now Covid management shows Johnson’s government is blind to the threat of UK disintegration: a new insider report

Some years ago I found myself  as one of a small team  called to the Cabinet Office to be asked to do a study of the state of the devolution because Whitehall was too busy  to do it themselves. The official in charge was Philip Rycroft who in retirement has now let fly with both barrels. Little in this report by the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at Cambridge is breaking news; but it updates an absence of pan -UK …

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Is authority split between the UK government and devolved “nations” helping or hindering the management of the pandemic?

Has the management of the pandemic further weakened the Union or behind the political noise, proved that Westminster and the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are essentially working well together?  No doubt an only partly suppressed competition to win credit with the voters at the end of the day is being waged. But cooperation is to an extent made more difficult because the division of responsibilities isn’t always clear. The devolved governments run for example health and education …

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To solve the Catalan crisis, pay homage to Britain

The Catalonian campaign for independence is a phenomenon of our times,  like the Scottish. They both claim they are ancient entities enjoying sufficient cohesion to go it alone and find their own balance between globalisation (the great big world now closer to all of us than ever) and self sufficiency ( provided it comes under the safety blanket of the EU).  They seem to think they deserve as of right, easy acquiescence and the blessing of a good deal from …

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Whatever its flaws, the British way of doing things has lessons for Spain

In an article in the Guardian prescribing on the Catalonian crisis, Gerry Adams strives to put himself on the right side of history and apply lessons from our own peace process. Thus far, the Spanish government is refusing to open a dialogue without the Catalans acquiescing to preconditions, including an acceptance that any talk of independence is illegal under Spanish law. In a conversation I had on Thursday evening with the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, he assured me that the …

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Theresa May misconstrues the Union as an English commonwealth. Instead, the best hope for “these islands” is to weather the storms of Brexit together

Theresa May’s tour of the devolved territories ( I wish we had a better collective noun) turned out to be a  jaw- droppingly empty gesture, quite apart from the inevitable omission of Belfast. Her semi-clandestine meeting with Nicola Sturgeon in a Glasgow hotel yesterday was a  stiff little ritual to confirm that Article 50 was being triggered today on behalf of the whole UK, Scotland naturally included. There was no pretence at accommodating the SNP.  Indeed there may even be …

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