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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Referendum campaign begins

There is no surer sign that the referendum campaign on Welsh Assembly powers has got underway than a high profile argument about the claims of each side in their literature. Sure enough the Western Mail obliges this morning with news of a row over the first leaflet produced by the Yes for Wales referendum campaign.

The leaflet suggests that Wales will get a fairer funding formula from the UK Government if there is a Yes vote on March 3. However, True Wales condemned it as “wholly misleading” and called for its immediate withdrawal and an apology. The group have also condemned an earlier leaflet issued by Welsh Labour in the same terms:

A spokesman for True Wales said: “[The Labour] leaflet boasts of £300m reasons to vote Yes and the [Yes for Wales] leaflet similarly states that the UK Government has said that, ‘it will only consider fairer funding for Wales if there is a Yes vote in the referendum’. Both parties must surely be aware that the UK Government has said no such thing.

“The Conservative Liberal Democrat Coalition has never promised a single penny more to Wales, whatever the outcome of the referendum. Indeed, on November 22, Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, told the Assembly’s Finance Committee that he did not want to address the Barnett formula until the UK’s financial crisis had been resolved.”

In response Yes for Wales spokesman Lee Waters said: “No campaigners need to understand that if there was a No vote on March 3, Westminster would not take the needs of Wales seriously."

To be fair both sides are right. A 'No' vote would send entirely the wrong message to the UK Government and lead them to believe that they could mess us about and withhold vital law making powers, no matter who is in control.

On the other hand, things have moved on since the Coalition Agreement. Not only did Danny Alexander come to the Assembly's Finance Committee and say that reform of the Barnett formula was wholly dependent on the economic situation and suggested that he could not see any movement on this in the near future, but he also clarified the wording in the coalition agreement.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury told the Committee that he would be prepared to deliver Calman style reforms to Wales, allowing us to borrow money and vary taxes. He also said that it was this consideration that was linked to the outcome of the referendum, not reform of the Barnett formula.

Personally, I do not like leaflets that mislead, wittingly or otherwise, no matter who produces them. But there is a wider issue here and that is the danger that the 'Yes' campaign turns into an anti-UK Coalition crusade. If that happens it will lose all party support and have less of a chance of winning.

Starting off on the contentious issue of Barnett reform and giving people the impression that all will be OK if they vote 'yes' on 3rd March is to step on a slippery slope towards party politicking and leaves the campaign open to the charge of deceiving people.

We already know that there are no magic bullets on this issue. Thirteen years of Labour rule showed that as well. We should not give a contrary impression.
If Wales says yes to more autonomy,will you still be expecting welsh mp's to vote on English affairs?
Define English affairs and show how they do not affect Wales.
It's quite easy to define English affairs.Anything that has been devolved to wales scotland or NI becomes English only.simples.
So Tuition Fees are English only even though they have an impact on the Welsh budget and 50% of Welsh students go to English universities whilst half the students at Welsh Universities are English? I don't think it can be that clear cut in the present asymetric devolution settlement.
I don't care who goes to which universities.education has been devolved to Wales and there is no need for Welsh MP's to vote on English affairs. Now that we've been told there is no link between Barnett Formula and West Lothian Question,there is absolutely no moral reason for Welsh MP's to pontificate on England

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