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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Campaigning for a 'Yes' vote

I attended a public meeting in Swansea last night that was convened to discuss the setting up of a 'Yes' campaign in the City in preparation for the promised referendum on primary law making powers for the Welsh Assembly.

My view is that we are approaching this referendum from the wrong perspective. It is a belief that has just been reinforced by a Radio Wales item that talked about people voting for an Assembly with equivalent powers to the Scottish Parliament. That is not what we will be asked to vote on.

Nor should we be arguing for 'more' powers in any 'Yes' campaign. That is not on offer either and if we try to turn the referendum into more than it offers then that will just play into the hands of those who argue that we are the 'slippery' slope to independence.

Effectively, the Government of Wales Act 2006 gives us primary law making powers over a number of key public policy areas such as health and education. However, to access those powers we have to negotiate an impossibly complicated, lengthy and wasteful process known as Legislative Competence Orders.

That process delays effective action for as much as two years, causes tensions between Westminster and Cardiff Bay and involves large parts of Welsh public life in consultation and evidence-giving sessions that produce no discernible output. It is wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money.

What the referendum envisaged by the Government of Wales Act 2006 will be doing is to ask the Welsh people to dismantle that bureaucracy, save a lot of public money and enable the Assembly to get on with the job of making laws instead of having to ask permission to do so first.

We will not be going so far as to create a Scottish Parliament-type of institution nor will we be even going as far as the Richard Commission envisaged, what we will be doing is voting 'yes' to an effective law-making government that is accountable solely to the electorate for delivering its democratically mandated manifesto.

On a more positive note it was good to see Cynog Dafis again last night. He was there speaking on behalf of Tomorrow's Wales, a cross party, and non-party organisation that he says is planning to relaunch itself within two months as a national 'Yes' campaign. That is a long overdue development in my view.
Surely we should have a bit more ambition than that? Personally I think we should call for full law-making powers as Scotland has. Make a really strong challenge to Westminster bureaucrats and say: "You've offered us sweet f.a. The Welsh people want a lot more."

It would be hard to argue against the result of a referendum endorsing a similar settlement to Scotland.

And we don't need to accept the fundamentalist Unionist views that full devolution leads to independence. We're better than that, surely?

Just a thought!

Post By Ol, opinions not neccesarily those of the student society
Interesting to see Cynog Dafis back on the scene.

Do you think there's any likelihood that Rhodri Morgan will lead a Yes campaign when he steps down in the autumn?
Thank you Peter for your kind words about the Swansea meeting. Let me clarify what I said, or meant to say, about Cymru Yfory/ Tomorrow's Wales.
CY assumes that a Yes campaign will be set up when the Convention process has ended, or is drawing to its end, towards the end of this year.
In the meantime a CY will conduct an active process of networking throughout Wales, working with individuals and organisations, to advocate primary legislative powers for the National Assembly and raise public awareness and understanding of the issues. We will be targetting young people in particular. Within the next couple of months we will be in a position to explain in more detail how we intend to work. In view of all this, I suggested that there is little to be gained from launching a Yes Campaign at this time. On the other hand we would welcome the formation of local groups like Swansea's Wales First and want to work closely with them.
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