Byline: Roger Lewis
What is the most important reason to vote 'Yes' on May 3? PEOPLE in every corner of our country are coming together to unite behind a simple principle. We believe laws that only apply in Wales, should be made in Wales. That's what this campaign is all about.
People from all parties, and more importantly, people who are not involved in politics are putting aside their differences to come together to secure a 'Yes' vote. This is the first time all four party leaders in Wales have ever done that in a referendum.
As my colleague Carolyn Hitt recently wrote in this newspaper, what unites us across the political spectrum, from all parties and none, is the "perfectly reasonable, desirable and blindingly obvious goal of having laws that only apply in Wales made in Wales."
If there's a 'Yes' vote, the areas over which the Assembly has responsibility will not change, but the way our AMs can make laws will be speeded up and made more efficient.
At the moment our National Assembly has to ask permission from Whitehall Civil Servants, unelected members of the House of Lords and MPs - including those from outside Wales - every time it wants to pass a new law. If there's a 'Yes' vote on March 3rd the Assembly can get on with the job of making laws for Wales without the time-consuming process of getting permission first.
Over the past decade the Assembly has gradually grown in stature and confidence. But the system for making laws that affect Wales is slow and complicated.
Here's an illustration of one cost of the current system. Attempts by Welsh charities, health and community groups, and the Assembly, to improve the quality of mental health care and make better use of Welsh taxpayers' money, were held up for a year in Whitehall and took a total of three years to implement because of the need to secure "permission". The Mental Health LCO had all-party support and was an uncontroversial reform which still struggled to get through.
Earlier this week, one of Wales' favourite sons, international rugby referee Clive Norling, drew on his own experience of clinical depression to explain the human consequences of such delays, saying: "The current recession will only make matters worse, and there are already clear signs of the impact on people's well-being because of unemployment, debt and job uncertainty. When you are ill you need treatment now. We cannot again afford to wait three years to get 'permission'.
It's a waste of time and money, which can be put to more practical use in the delivery of services in Wales. Voting 'Yes' will mean an end to the current slow bureaucratic process, which absorbs valuable resources, costs and time."
A 'Yes' vote will help take Wales forward by speeding up the system of decision-making to allow Assembly Members to get on with the job. It will end the "slow-motion politics" that plagues us in Wales.
And there's a financial cost too. It has been estimated that passing the Legislative Competence Order on the environment - which took about three years to do - cost around pounds 300,000. Surely there are better ways to invest precious public money? We would all like to see Wales increase its effectiveness at home and its influence and leverage within the UK. But influence depends on respect, respect responds to selfrespect, self-respect requires you to take responsibility.
This referendum is about taking that responsibility and having confidence in the Assembly to do the job we elect it to do.
No-one from 'Yes' for Wales is arguing for one second that all the Assembly has done is perfect, but I agree with people like former Secretary of State for Wales Paul Murphy who says the Assembly's influence on Wales and its people has been a positive one.
As The Western Mail has said throughout this campaign, the sensible choice is to vote 'Yes' on March 3.