Today is the day that Wales votes in their powers referendum.  To be clear, this isn’t a referendum to extend devolution or bestow more powers on the National Assembly for Wales.  They already have the opportunity to get the powers which will be delivered in the event of a Yes vote in today’s referendum – they were bestowed on the NAW by the Government of Wales Act (2006).

This is more about speed of delivery – rather than having to apply to Westminster for individual powers in each of 20 fields specified in the Act using a lengthy process known as Legislative Competence Orders (LCOs), a Yes vote would allow the NAW to take control of all 20 fields in one go, giving them the power to make more primary legislation than they are currently capable of.

Of course, this is kind of confusing.  How do you run a campaign asking people to vote for something you kind of already have but want a wee bit faster and more efficiently?  And how do you campaign against the powers by opposing the place becoming more efficient?

It has happened over the last 6 weeks,  but really since the announcement of the date of the referendum late last year.

Essentially, Yes for Wales has argued that the NAW could do its job better, and have more of an impact on individual people’s lives in Wales if there was a Yes vote.  It’d mean less hassle in trying to get the powers to pass legislation, more clarity in decision-making and, potentially, more distinctly Welsh policies, passed by the NAW for people in Wales.

True Wales, long opponents of devolution, argue that further powers for the NAW is not what is required, that the NAW itself is a waste of money and that devolution needs to be streamlined, with more focus on all-Wales and not some of Wales.  Essentially they think the NAW is a white elephant so they’ve been taking a large inflatable animal around the country to emphasise the point.  Except the animal is a giant pig… but it apparently makes the same point.

Anyway, most of this is part of what I’m studying, so I have a keen eye on what is going on in Wales today.

Just something I’d like to ask though, if I may.  Below is what will be appearing on ballot papers in Wales today.  The preamble is pretty long and, I’d argue, slightly confusing (but then, so is the LCO system, so I suppose that makes sense).

Welsh referendum Question 2011:

The National Assembly for Wales – what happens at the moment:

The Assembly has powers to make laws on 20 subject areas, such as agriculture, education, the environment, health, housing, local government.

In each subject area, the Assembly can make laws on some matters, but not others. To make laws on any of these other matters, the assembly must ask the UK Parliament for its agreement. The UK Parliament then decides each time whether or not the assembly can make these laws.

The Assembly cannot make laws on subject areas such as defence, tax or welfare benefits, whatever the result of this vote.

If most voters vote ‘yes’ – the Assembly will be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it has powers for, without needing the UK Parliament’s agreement.

If most voters vote ‘no’ – what happens at the moment will continue.

Do you want the Assembly now to be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it has powers for?


And I know that the Government of Wales Act (2006) made a referendum prior to the move to full law-making powers mandatory… but doesn’t it seem crazy to consult the public on the minutia and intricacies of law-making?  To be clear again – this isn’t really consulting them on constitutional change, since the powers have already been granted – its basically about asking whether they support efficient governance or not.

I hope the Welsh public – who in opinion polls, for what they are worth, have been backing a Yes vote by a margin of 2:1 – do go and vote Yes today.  A No vote would set back devolution in Wales a long way.