Thursday, March 3, 2011

Decision day in Wales

It's great to see Malc at Better Nation devote a post to the referendum in Wales today - it's received so little coverage in the "national" mainstream media that you'd be forgiven for not being aware that it's even taking place. On one point I'd quibble with Malc, though -

"To be clear, this isn’t a referendum to extend devolution or bestow more powers on the National Assembly for Wales. They already have the opportunity to get the powers which will be delivered in the event of a Yes vote in today’s referendum – they were bestowed on the NAW by the Government of Wales Act (2008).

This is more about speed of delivery – rather than having to apply to Westminster for individual powers in each of 20 fields specified in the Act using a lengthy process known as Legislative Competence Orders (LCOs)..."

To my mind, the vote plainly is about the extension of devolved powers. The whole point of having to apply for a power, surely, is that the application can be refused - or to put it another way, the power isn't actually 'bestowed' on the Assembly until an application is accepted.

Malc also reveals the entire lengthy preamble to today's referendum question, which includes this rather startling sentence -

"The Assembly cannot make laws on subject areas such as defence, tax or welfare benefits, whatever the result of this vote."

Which is as good as saying "you don't get to choose on such grown-up matters, so suck it up". Doubtless, though, there'll still be somebody brazen enough to claim a Yes vote today as a "vote against nationalism", just as Roy Hattersley did after the Scottish devolution referendum of 1997. Tell me, Roy - how exactly could I have gone about voting for independence in that referendum? A No vote? An abstention? How?

Still, in a way it's a pity that the AV referendum question won't be fronting up to its limitations in quite such a direct manner...

"At present, our voting system is not proportional. However you vote today, that will not change. Tough luck, baby."

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