The big flag debate and the state of the union: What does the future of the UK look like?

Matt and Lauren New Normal guests
Adrian Masters discusses the state of the union with former government advisors

Since Brexit and the pandemic, greater attention than ever has been drawn to the nations and union of the United Kingdom.

A number of people in Wales have been calling for us to follow the UK Government's Covid guidelines more closely while others have said they prefer the rules that the Welsh Government has put in place. Either way, people's awareness of devolution has rapidly grown during this period, with the regular government briefings, and penalties for those crossing the border during lockdowns.

In the latest episode of The New Normal with Adrian Masters podcast, ITV Wales' political editor is reunited with Lauren McEvatt and Matt Greenough. Lauren was a special adviser in David Cameron's UK Government and Matt was a special adviser to the former First Minister Carwyn Jones. The pair give listeners the inside scoop into what is going on with the Welsh and UK governments.

Matt told the podcast, Welsh Labour need to build an "emotional connection" if they want to persuade people that "the union is a good thing".

Lauren said she thinks the next "flashpoint" in the union debate will be around Northern Ireland's position.

She thinks the Welsh public's level of support for independence is not likely to change dramatically over the next few years.

Lauren said, "All of this this complete codswallop over back doors for Irish sausages is just going to rumble and rumble and rumble. Northern Ireland is a big flashpoint for the next couple of years.

"Wales, it's going to rumble in somewhere between the usual, somewhere between the 11% and 21% on the basis of who's doing well. But Northern Ireland, it's going to be big."

Lauren and Matt also share their opinions on the issue of the flag - after thousands signed a petition against having a Union Jack adorned across a UK Government hub in Cardiff city centre.

The UK Government said the union flag on the building was part of its "visual branding" and added “the flag of Wales is flown at Ty William Morgan which also contains other specifically Welsh branding, while the name of the new building was chosen to reflect the UK Government’s investment in Wales and Welsh culture."

It came as members of the Welsh Parliament were asked to stop displaying flags when joining debates via video call.

The 11-storey building Cardiff Central Square will feature a large Union Jack

In the second half of the podcast, ITV Wales' political editor Adrian meets Peter MacMahon, his counterpart at ITV Border, and Vicki Hawthorne, political correspondent at UTV. The three discuss how Brexit and the pandemic have affected the UK nations.

Support for independence in Wales has been rising but so too has support for abolishing the Senedd. How does this compare to the other UK nations?

Vicki Hawthorne said that Brexit has brought about more discussion of reunification in Northern Ireland.

"There's been some opinion polls in the last number of months, one specifically about the idea of a border poll, and that found that about 53% of people wanted to stay in the UK, 30% would vote for a united Ireland, which left about 9% undecided.

"So even if you put it all together and there still wasn't the numbers there for a united Ireland based on that poll, there are certainly more conversations about it."

Thousands marched for Welsh Independence back in 2019 Credit: ITV Wales

In regards to Scotland, Peter MacMahon said it is not inevitable that there will be another Scottish referendum.

"There are plenty of hurdles along the way - Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP have to jump to get themselves a second independence referendum.

"The polls definitely suggest that Nicola Sturgeon is more popular than Boris Johnson because of her handling of the Covid pandemic.

"Although when you look at some of the facts, for example, deaths in care homes that have been significant, or there were early on, significant deaths in care homes of people who moved out of hospitals in Scotland as well. So there are also some considerable similarities in terms of what actually happened in dealing with the pandemic.

"In terms of the constitutional question, though, the polls continue to show or suggest something like a 50 50 split between people who want or who would support a yes vote and a second independence referendum and those who say no."

Listen to The New Normal with Adrian Masters: