Leaving aside the element of point-scoring and game-playing (particularly from Plaid in this case, who seemed to be preoccupied with “putting Labour on the spot” for failing to vote for a Plaid amendment in the House of Commons), both parties implied, although wisely avoided saying directly, that devolution of consent would lead to a change in policy in some way.
Now, as a supporter of independence, I’m not going to disagree with their call for devolution of these powers – on the contrary, I’d go a lot further than either of them seems to want to. I’m concerned though about arguing for something on the basis of a false prospectus; it’s not an honest argument for further devolution.
Let’s take for example Wylfa B. Would a Welsh decision be any different from a UK one? I doubt it. With all the Tories, most of Labour, and at least a third of Plaid AMs likely to support the project, the result would almost certainly be exactly the same.
Or how about TAN 8? Whilst some AMs make a lot of noise about the need to look at it again I don’t believe that there’s a majority in the Senedd for changing the policy. (And there’d be no complaints from me on that score – I’m as convinced as ever that Wales does need to exploit its potential for wind energy).
Or how about gas power stations? The Welsh government didn’t oppose the new station in Pembrokeshire despite the known environmental problems and failings. There were some politicians in all parties actually supporting it – on the basis of jobs. What part of that exactly would devolution of this power have changed?
Or what about “fuel poverty”? This was the specific peg on which Carwyn Jones based his latest call for the devolution of these powers, but there was nothing at all in what he said which indicated how, if at all, he and his government could or would use the powers he was requesting to address the issue. Energy pricing is not devolved, and neither was he calling for it to be devolved.
There’s something more than a little disingenuous about calling for more powers on the back of problems which either those powers would not solve or else those making the call would not be prepared to use those powers in ways which would solve the problems. The danger in that is that it discredits the idea of devolution itself, quite apart from adding to the mistrust for politicians.