Monday, 7 March 2011

That's enough voting

I thought that it was unwise for supporters of a yes vote during the recent referendum to start giving out promises that there would be no further devolution without another referendum, even if such statements did help to sway some people. 
I’m not sure that it’s any wiser, though, to start saying that there will never be a need for another referendum on a constitutional issue.  There is a danger that that simply plays to the worst fears of this year’s no campaigners – that there is no defined end point, and that change will instead happen by what I’m sure that they would call stealth.
It’s not really possible to pre-determine which changes will or will not require public support to be demonstrated at the ballot box.  Things which might look highly controversial now might attract a high level of consensus in a few years’ time, and surely the last thing we want is a repeat of the 2011 referendum, just because of a rashly-given promise in advance.
Possible next steps on the devolution journey will include changing the situation in Wales to match that in Scotland, where the powers of the Parliament are defined by what is reserved rather than by what is devolved; policing; creation of a Welsh legal system, and, inevitably, taxation. 
I’m also attracted by the idea put forward by Cynog Dafis after the vote last week that we should aim to ‘entrench’ the powers of the Assembly, which are currently only ‘on loan’ from Westminster.  At least, that’s the legal position, even if not exactly the de facto one.  I’m not sure though that it is possible that a parliament whose whole self-definition is based on the idea of its own absolute sovereignty could or would ever pass an act renouncing part of that sovereignty.  Could such an act, if passed, ever really be entirely non-repealable, I wonder.
One thing, though, on which I think it is possible to be categorical, and that is that Wales could not become an independent country without a referendum endorsement first.  I guess that are just some people and parties who don’t ever expect that to be on the agenda.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Unlike the Scottish electorate, the Welsh electorate has never been asked a question on tax-varying powers.

In that context how 'legitimate' would it be to set up a Commission to look at such powers? But then Westminster is sovereign of course...