Having recently mooted the idea of Guernsey and Jersey creating a joint civil service CEO, Deputy Gavin St Pier has elaborated on how he thinks the islands could strengthen ties in the future by building an underwater tunnel and by setting up a Channel Islands 'Privy Council'.
The former Chief Minister now sits as a backbencher, holding our new political leaders to account.
With four years of experience sitting in the top seat at the top table, Deputy St Pier said that determined political leadership and collaboration is needed more than ever in a post-covid world...
With a vacancy having opened up at the top of Jersey’s public service, now would be the ideal time to create a single post tasked with driving both islands’ public services.
At first blush, it might seem radical to create such a ‘big job’. But, in fact, with a joint population of 170,000, the role would remain smaller than for many similar jobs elsewhere. Obviously police officers need to be on the streets and teachers in the schools on each island, but there is virtually no service that could not offer some synergy by sharing management or other resources.
Pictured: The States of Guernsey's CEO Paul Whitfield.
There is a raft of practical, legal, governance, cultural and historical reasons that could be thrown up as barriers so this will only make progress with determined political leadership in both islands; but in a post-covid world where both populations are going to face higher taxes, it should not be for us to make the case for why it can be done but for those leadership teams to explain clearly why it can’t.
On the external plane, the two islands already work almost seamlessly together and have done so for a number of years, including of course sharing resources to have a joint presence in both Normandy and Brussels.
Both islands have experienced the same pressures on our ancient and constitutional relationship with the Crown in recent years, whether from backbenchers attempting to legislate for us or the UK government stretching constitutional convention for tactical advantage.
Pictured: "Both islands have experienced the same pressures on our ancient and constitutional relationship with the Crown..."
Now may be the time for us to seek to have the existing ‘Jersey and Guernsey Committee of the Privy Council’ populated by our own Privy Counsellors rather than UK ministers to advise Her Majesty on matters relating to her dominions in the Channel.
An obvious step to strengthen links would be to dig the tunnel that Guernseyman Martyn Dorey has proposed.
Such infrastructure would be a radical transformation in so many ways, not just economically but socially. It would allow people to more readily live in one island and work in the other; and it would certainly accelerate the development of joint public services.
Pictured: "It would allow people to more readily live in one island and work in the other."
Not only would we be seen from the outside world as a single entity – the Channel Islands – a tunnel would make it so in a physical sense. There are understandable and natural concerns about the loss of cultural identity.
In reality, of course, the islands’ populations have and continue to constantly change and evolve as the economic and industrial tides come in and out and that experience has not diminished the pride felt by islanders in their respective island.
The covid pandemic has turned many things upside down, including of course the aviation sector.
We already have the precedent of shared strategic infrastructure in the form of the Channel Islands Electricity Grid. But Guernsey’s ownership of Aurigny has enabled it to plough a more independent furrow without needing to consider the impact of its policy choices on commercial airline operators.
Pictured: "Guernsey’s ownership of Aurigny has enabled it to plough a more independent furrow without needing to consider the impact of its policy choices on commercial airline operators."
Being an island and having ownership of transport links does give a strategic resilience which could be shared with Jersey by it taking a stake in the airline.
While both islands maintain links with communities further afield, we could explore the opportunities to improve parochial connection by ‘twinning’ parishes.
Failing that maybe we could just ‘twin’ politicians from each island to shadow each other instead!