back to top

This Is How The Scottish And Welsh Governments Are Working Together To Take On The Tories

The two devolved governments are putting on an increasingly united front to stand up to Theresa May.

Posted on
First ministers Carwyn Jones and Nicola Sturgeon
Andrew Milligan / PA Archive/PA Images

First ministers Carwyn Jones and Nicola Sturgeon

The Scottish and Welsh governments are working much closer together in order to pile pressure on a weakened Theresa May in the wake of the general election and the prime minister's deal with the Democratic Unionist Party, BuzzFeed News understands.

Sources from both governments said the political climate, in which they feel they have much great leverage over a minority Conservative government, has forged a much tighter relationship between them.

Private communication between ministers from the two devolved governments has markedly increased, and it's understood ministers have been privately agreeing positions to take ahead of meetings with UK ministers.

Two rare joint statements – one against the so-called repeal bill and another on a formal joint challenge being launched against the DUP confidence and supply deal – were published by the governments in the past week.

The governments have also agreed joint positions on the UK government's treatment on unaccompanied child refugees, and will press Whitehall on returning as many powers to the devolved administrations as possible.

Tomorrow's front page: We’ll block Brexit laws, warn Scots and Welsh #tomorrowspaperstoday

Asked if the governments had been brought together, a Scottish minister said: "In a word – yes. Ministers have cooperated much more publicly and privately. We've identified so much in common and [a joint approach] means more pressure on the UK government."

A senior source from the Welsh government said: "The conversations [between ministers] to a large extent have always happened, it's the joint positions we’ve recently taken publicly which are the difference.

"Last week the joint statement on the repeal bill was the front page of The Times – that wouldn’t have happened if we’d done it on our own of the Scottish government did it on their own. It makes sense for us to work together to pool our influence."

Cooperation increased in the wake of the Brexit vote last year, but has significantly stepped up again after the general election to take advantage of May's loss of majority and authority, and now that the SNP government is less focused on independence.

"It was the general election result and the fact that the SNP had a bit of a kicking themselves, coupled with the new political context on a UK level with Theresa May not having an overall majority," said a Welsh government source.

"The political climate has changed in Scotland as well as the UK so those two things together, with independence less of an issue – we're both trying to make Brexit work in a UK context and it makes cooperation much easier."

Gordon Terris / PA Archive/PA Images

The joint positions between the two governments have all been highly critical of the UK government, particularly on its handling of Brexit and the £1 billion deal that saw Northern Ireland's DUP enter a confidence and supply arrangement.

Wales' first minister Carwyn Jones called the DUP deal "a straight bung", and in a joint statement between Jones and Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon on the repeal bill, the two leaders called it "a naked power-grab".

The positions have been been agreed at bilateral meetings between ministers of the two governments, particularly when they need to take a joint position ahead of trilateral meetings including the UK government.

BuzzFeed News understands there is a particularly close working relationship between the Scottish government's Brexit minister Mike Russell and the Welsh government's finance minister Mark Drakeford, who deals with EU matters.

Communication between Jones and Sturgeon hasn't increased much since the general election, but there is a dawning realisation that they must work together to increase the chance of a good Brexit deal for the devolved countries.

Pa Wire / PA Wire/PA Images

A senior Scottish government source said: “Westminster needs to learn it can't simply ride roughshod over the wishes of the devolved nations and get away with it. We’ve come a long way since the bad old days, pre-devolution, when Tory governments could do what they wanted and Scotland and Wales were effectively voiceless."

The source added: “We have worked closely with our counterparts in Wales on issues like the repeal bill and the DUP cash deal, and we will look to do more together in cases where it makes sense to present a united front."

A Welsh government source said: "If working with the Scottish government helps us shape Brexit in a way that’s best for the people of Wales, we’re certainly up for that."

The most significant test of the new relationship will come when the two governments clash with the UK government over refusing consent for the repeal bill when the issue comes before the joint ministerial council.

Legally, the UK government could still pass the bill without the consent of the devolved parliaments, but experts have previously told BuzzFeed News that would cause an unprecedented constitutional crisis.

Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.

Contact Jamie Ross at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.