On Thursday 3rd March, Wales will once again flock to the polling booths to place their votes in the 2011 Welsh referendum and will have a big say in the way future generations of their families are governed. Conveniently taking place just two days after St David’s Day, the occasion will go a long way to determining the current mindset of the Welsh people after years of London-imposed policies have greatly affected the nation and not necessarily for the better. Self-rule or remain on Westminster’s leash? Decisions are to be made.
There is no greater threat to the democracy of a nation than the apathy of the voters, low turnout occasionally helping to transform election results that otherwise may have gone differently had people used their voting right. Such an issue may creep up with this referendum next week, low voter turn out becoming an accepted inevitability due to the confusion and perhaps ignorance of the people about what exactly the vote is for. There appears to be a feeling of nonchalance towards the voting by a vast cross-section of those eligible to voice their opinion via the ballot, many unsure of what the National Assembly for Wales exactly does and how voting will change this. Surely all politicians are merely fiddling their expenses, the Yes vote is for sign-painting nationalists who occupy hillside farms and the No vote is what normal realistic folk who understand how Wales would crumble without England is for?
The reality is of course radically different from the stereotypes the general public may have pictured and for a campaign in which no public funding has been made available it has been hard work to change these opinions although the Yes For Wales group have worked tirelessly through leaf-letting and social media. So why vote Yes?
Perhaps the most clear indicator to the newcomer of why Yes is the correct way to go is by viewing the political allegiances of the campaigns. Whilst the No campaign, entitled TrueWales, encompasses independents and a few rogue Labour and Conservative members the Yes for Wales campaign is headed by a unique and extremely rare alliance of all four major political parties. Perhaps one party can be misguided. But can all four?
Yet what is the vote actually for and why are the parties so eager to throw away traditional rivalry to cooperate for a Yes vote? The current incarnation of the National Assembly for Wales was inaugurated following the 1997 referendum and was created to devolve certain powers from the Welsh Office and Secretary State for Wales to Cardiff. Recognised as a possible tentative step towards further or full law making powers by many, the truth is that the Assembly has remained limited in what it can do and is essentially kept on a close leash by the puppet masters in Westminster. Currently, Scotland and Northern Ireland have the power in their devolved to act without input from the UK Government. Although granted certain decision-making powers in some aspects of Welsh governance, any requests to change laws or to establish new ones must currently be escalated for authorisation by Whitehall, an expensive and time-consuming process that can take years to grant. This process is currently entitled Legislative Competence Orders (LCO) and were introduced four years ago as a way for Wales to propose its own laws in the fields that were devolved to the Assembly a decade ago. The 20 devolved areas that the Welsh Assembly currently has power to propose legislation for includes Education, Health, Tourism, Transport and Agriculture, important subjects that have a direct impact on many Welsh citizen’s lives.
Voting Yes on 3rd March will be enable the Assembly to gloriously consign these restrictive LCO’s to the political scrapheap. Allowing decisions to be made and actioned in the Senedd without begging Whitehall for permission will enable Wales to grow in all aspects, particularly in allowing Welsh laws to be tailored to the needs of Welsh people and implemented instantly as opposed to lengthy three-year hold-up’s at the back of the Whitehall priority queue.
Essentially, voting Yes for Wales will enable the nation to stand on its own two feet as well as allowing the nation more responsibility to govern itself in a way to guarantee Wales receives what Wales needs as opposed to what London allows. Wales needs a stronger voice to help defend her people against the outrageous recent UK Governmental cuts which has severely affected the already suffering working classes of the country. Such vital public services like the Newport Passport Office or environmental projects like the Severn Barrage have been ruthlessly axed from London with no input from the Welsh people affected from such actions. Only Welsh people use the highly regarded S4C channel and in many cases this provides a vital and necessary service to certain sections of the population in a way that BBC1 does for the rest of the nation. This has not prevented the savage cuts imposed on the flagship Welsh language channel from being interfered as there is no one in a suitable capacity with the power to offer a guiding hand.
Wales requires someone to stand up for her, to ensure her political equality within the rabid world that is United Kingdom politics and to ensure the people of Wales receive the fairest deal available. The National Assembly for Wales has many detractors but they have implemented many valuable pieces of legislation, including but not limited to free NHS prescriptions; Free Bus Passes and Student Tuition fee grants for Welsh students. This is next natural step in the progression of devolution. For the first time in a while the Welsh people have the opportunity to empower themselves to protect future generations from mismanagement from Westminster.
John Hartson has said Yes. Shane Williams and the Welsh rugby team has said Yes. Olympic medallist David Davies says Yes. Max Boyce says Yes. So should you. Stand up for Wales. Vote Yes for Wales on March 3rd. Pleidleisiwch Ie dros Gymru ar Fawrth 3ydd.