A VISION FOR THE FUTURE IN WALES; A Vision for Wales' Relationship with the Rest of the United Kingdom Will Be Laid out Tomorrow Morning When the Cross-Party Silk Commission Publishes a Long-Awaited Report. Scores of Submissions, Writes David Williamson, Have Revealed the Very Different Hopes for the Future Found among the People of Wales
Q: Wales is famous for coal and steel and, more recently, fine whisky, science-fiction and designer baby clothes - why have we got a commission on silk? A: Ho ho. The commission takes its name from Paul Silk, the former Assembly clerk who has led a major review of changes to the devolution settlement. First, he and his cross-party colleagues called for the transfer of borrowing and income tax-varying powers; tomorrow he will reveal a host of changes in other areas.
Q: Hasn't Wales had enough constitutional malarkey for one generation? A: There are big questions to be decided. Should the Welsh police answer to the Home Office in London or a minister in Cardiff? Who should be in control of our nation's Jobcentres? What powers should the Welsh Government have over broadcasting and - here's a big one - who should be responsible for approving the next giant wind farm? Q: Will the report call for the Assembly to gain such a power? A: Montgomeryshire Conservative MP Glyn Davies thinks so. He said: "Seems the Silk Commission is likely to propose power over wind farms of over 50 megawatts be devolved to Welsh Government. Over my dead body."
In contrast, Friends of the Paul Silk Earth Cymru argued that "all powers to consent, licence and permit energy developments in Wales should be devolved to the National Assembly for Wales".
Q: Would the Welsh Government welcome the responsibility? A: Yup. It wants responsibility for the "consenting of large-scale energy generation (except nuclear power) and related energy infrastructure".
Q: And does it want control of policing? A: Absolutely, alongside responsibility for the youth justice system, community safety and crime prevention. It also wants powers over speed and drink-driving limits and licensing of alcohol and late-night entertainment, as well as administration of elections in Wales, road safety, water and vulnerable adults and children.
Q: Superman would envy those powers! Is there anything else it desires? A: In the long run, responsibility for the criminal justice system, including the courts, prisons and probation, and the establishment of a separate Welsh legal jurisdiction.
Q: Would this mean we would have the fun of another referendum? A: Not according to the Welsh Government, which last year argued that the "outcome of the referendum held in March 2011 con-firmed the electorate's support for the National Assembly as an institution with extensive legislative authority for Wales".
Q: That's the referendum in which the Assembly gained primary law-making powers on the back of 517,132 Yes votes out of a population of roughly three million? A: That's the one!
Q: Is anyone nervous that rather a lot of radical change is happening quite quickly? A: True Wales, the unofficial No campaign in the 2011 campaign, is pretty outraged, stating: "It remains a source of regret to us that no one who has publicly declared opposition to further devolution was appointed to the Silk Commission to give attention to the views of almost 300,000 people who voted No in the 2011 referendum... In 2011, we had the unprecedented spectacle in any modern democracy of a whole political class closing ranks behind one side in a referendum on the acquisition of far-reaching direct lawmaking power."
Q: That's fighting talk. I take it they are not thrilled by the idea of more power whooshing to Cardiff Bay? A: No, and they argue the public must have a say: "We believe that, given the fact that politicians from all major parties explicitly denied that a Yes vote would lead to a separate legal jurisdiction and the devolution of policing and criminal justice, a referendum must be held if these changes are to have legitimacy."
And they want a "truly National Health Service overseen as a whole by the United Kingdom Parliament".
Q: So, the Welsh Government wants lots more devolution and True Wales wants even less - but are we getting a bit overexcited? …