Wales Said Yes: Now Let's Use New Powers Effectively

Article excerpt


LAST Thursday's referendum moved Wales into a new era. Voters decisively endorsed the National Assembly having full law-making powers without needing Westminster's permission.

Credit is due to hundreds of "Yes" supporters who distributed leaflets, held street stalls and telephoned voters. And a huge "Thank-you" to those who dug deep into their own pockets to fund the campaign. For once, all four parties united for a "Yes" vote; local party branches shared out campaigning duties. There are lessons for politicians from the clear-cut public response.

Some denigrate this result because the turnout was 35%, implying that stay-at-home voters were opposed to change. That gives a credibility to those who didn't bother voting, over those who did.

By refusing to register officially, The "No" campaign prevented households from receiving leaflets by post. They scuppered referendum broadcasts. Consequently some people felt ill-equipped to vote. "No"-campaigners helped cause the low turnout.

Referenda in Britain are regulated by a Westminster Act created to ensure fair play. This was undermined by the No-campaign antics. Parliament must surely reconsider this Act. Never again should referendum voters be denied vital information by one side's spoiling tactics.

The huge "Yes" majority out-weighs doubts about the turnout. Had 60% voted, with three-quarters of the additional turnout voting "No", there would still have been a "Yes" majority. The number of "No" votes dropped from a million voters in 1979, to half a million in 1997; and now to under 300,000.

This result establishes Wales' right to make laws for domestic issues. Our Assembly now has powers akin to the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly. …