Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has told the Scottish Conservative Conference that the UK Government had "seized this unique moment" to take forward devolution and strengthen the United Kingdom.
The very idea of Britain and Britishness belongs just as much to the peoples of Wales and Scotland as it does to the English – if not even more so. Wales and Scotland have a shared stake in this United Kingdom.
Rather than run from the opportunity [the Scottish Referendum] presented, or close the book and wipe our brows with a relieved sigh, we seized this unique moment and sought to put both Wales and Scotland at the heart of a constitutional debate.
And so for the past five months I have been leading a process to establish the next stage of devolution for Wales – to be announced by St Davids Day, in just over a week’s time. I believe one of the proudest achievements of this Conservative-led Government is how we have taken forward devolution to strengthen the Union.
And we haven’t done this just for the sake of it or simply to surrender to nationalist demands. No. It’s about giving Wales and Scotland the powers they need to grow their own economies from the inside up: Powers with a purpose.
The Secretary of State added that the Conservatives' "long term economic plan" will need to be shared by the Welsh and Scottish Governments. He called on them to "cast aside old dogma" to secure a private-sector led economic recovery. But at the Westminster election there would be a straight choice about who would be Prime Minister.
The choice between a Prime Minister who understands and loves the Union, who wasn’t afraid to hold a referendum to tackle the big issue in Scotland head on, who is passionate about Wales, who understands why Wales is different, who understands why Scotland is different…
Or the lesser-spotted Ed Miliband – who has hardly appeared in Wales, and doesn’t seem to be very welcome here in Scotland.
Yes, while David Cameron has spent the last five years demonstrating just how much Scotland and Wales mean to him: delivering further devolution, pushing forward big infrastructure investment, laying the foundations for stable growth – actually visiting our nations in the process.
Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have allowed Scotland and Wales to slip out of their sights. And why? Because frankly, we just don’t matter enough to them.
Mr Crabb didn't name the Scottish National Party but he acknowledged the SNP's political breakthrough in Scotland, where it enjoys a big lead over Labour in the polls.
What many down South haven’t caught on to yet, is that the single most important political development of the last year has had nothing to do with UKIP. No, it is something which is sending shudders of fear down the backs of Labour in London and in Cardiff too – and that is the collapse of Labour in Scotland – where they have lost their grip on those communities they took for granted for so long.
And I believe there is a day of reckoning coming for Labour in Wales too, because they have committed exactly the same sins as in Scotland; taking for granted their working classes: ignoring; patronising, not doing enough to tackle long-term unemployment; turning their back on welfare reform that actually helps the very people they purport to represent; allowing standards of public services to slide, showing complacency. All this is unforgivable.
Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith has dismissed as "ignorance" and "smears" today's speech by Secretary of State Stephen Crabb on standards in Welsh education. Mr Crabb has accused Labour of trying to prevent debate after the Welsh Government's furious reaction to his comment in a newspaper that schools in Wales are "a bigger scandal than the NHS".
Stephen Crabb is becoming a disingenuous, smiling assassin of the reputation of our Welsh schools and hospitals. Only a few weeks ago he called on his Cabinet colleagues to mind their language about Wales, lest they create a false and damaging impression of our country with their politically motivated attacks on the Welsh NHS. Yet today he himself declared Welsh schools as ‘worse than Eastern Europe’, in ignorance of the facts and in a naked attempt to score political points ahead of the election – no matter the damage done to Wales’ reputation abroad, nor the morale of our pupils and teachers at home.
In his speech, Mr Crabb recalls his own education – like mine and the First Minister’s - in a Welsh Comprehensive, but the prescription he hints at - for the failings he falsely describes - is for Wales to go down the route of scrapping comprehensive education and creating instead autonomous academies, as in England. He fails to point out, of course, that a higher proportion of these academies are failing than of their local authority run equivalents, but that will surprise no one here in Wales: we are used to Tory Ministers smiling sweetly as they smear.
Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb is expected to renew his criticism of school standards in Wales when he makes a speech later. His claim that Welsh education "is a bigger scandal than the NHS" led to Education Minister Huw Lewis to accuse the Secretary of State of indulging in "gutter politics". Mr Crabb is due to respond by saying that Wales needs more "heated debate" about the issue.
In England, there has been 20 years of heated debate about how to deliver the best education. In Wales, we haven’t even had that discussion. When Welsh Labour Ministers try to shut down the debate it’s the pupils, parents and teachers who lose out.
It is not just the best performing students that are missing out, the most disadvantaged children in Wales are less likely to get good GCSEs than similar pupils in England. That is just not good enough.
We need an honesty check here in Wales and start facing the facts. The inconvenient truth is that at the moment our education standards our not where they should be if we are to have any hope of getting off the bottom of the league table.,
If we are going to be ambitious for the Welsh economy we need to be far more ambitions for Welsh education.
Simply saying, 'we took our eye off the ball' doesn’t come close to the level of responsibility Welsh Labour Ministers should be accepting.
The Welsh Secretary says voters in the Westminster election will think about their economic prospects, not more powers for the Assembly.Read the full story ›
Speaking after a meeting with the party leaders in Wales, the Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb, said he was 'encouraged' by the goodwill shown by all four leaders and optimistic that a plan could be agreed by St. David's Day 2015.
Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb says he'll be making the case for North Wales rail electrification 'at the heart of government.'
He's set to make his promise during a speech at the Daily Post business awards this evening which is part of histwo-day tour of the North.
Mr Crabb is expected to say:
This afternoon I visited Rhyl Station - one of the main stations on the North Wales coastline, to bang the drum for North Wales rail electrification.
Just like in the Valleys - electrifying the lines for stations like Rhyl would have a transformative effect for North Wales - connecting people and business with opportunities and jobs right across the country, so that geographic location is never a barrier to success.
North Wales needs modern rail infrastructure if it is to continue competing with the rest of the country.
This won’t happen overnight - it will take time, it will take money, and it will take a lot of hard work.
But I will be championing this around the cabinet table and making the case for North Wales rail electrification to my colleagues at the heart of Government.
Plaid Cymru says Wales will continue to lose out after the Prime Minister told MPs that there is no reform 'on the horizon' for the Barnett Formula, which limits any change in the funding that the UK Treasury gives to the Welsh Government.
The Prime Minister's confirmation that the unfair Barnett Formula is here to stay proves that Westminster just isn't working for Wales. If Wales received the same money as Scotland per head, we would have £1.2bn more per year to radically improve our schools, hospitals, roads and railways.
Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has welcomed the announcement of more than a thousand new jobs at six projects in Wales. He said the news is sign that the UK Government's long term economic plan is working and that Wales is poised to benefit from this week's investment summit.
The UK Government has a long term economic plan for getting right behind Welsh businesses and creating the perfect conditions for growth. We have reduced the deficit, cut Corporation Tax and slashed red tape to make our economy more competitive and more attractive for inward investment.
This has led to 8,000 new businesses starting each year in Wales and the creation of around 100,000 new private sector jobs since 2010.
This week’s summit will send a message to the world that we are an ambitious nation that is open for business. There has never been a better time for Wales to capitalise on an investment summit - to turn the success of the recent Nato summit into jobs and prosperity so that more people in Wales can benefit from the security of a regular wage.
The Prime Minister has told MPs that change to the way that Wales is funded isn't 'on the horizon.' David Cameron said that the current arrangements will become less important as the Welsh Government gets more control over raising its own finances through taxes.
He was being questioned about the next steps for devolution by the chairs of committees in the House of Commons. Monmouth MP, David TC Davies, who chairs the Welsh Affairs committee, asked him if the so-called Barnett Formula will be scrapped.
You can see the Prime Minister's answer in the video below:
Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb said the coming months provide a 'unique opportunity to reshape the future' of the United Kingdom. He told an event organised by the Institute of Welsh Affairs that the pressure for change is irresistible.