The last of Dr Richard Wyn Jones (Dicw)'s programmes on Devolution was shown on S4C last night. In the programme Dr Jones looked at some of the successes and failures of Devolution over the past 8 to 10 years.
I agreed with many of Dicw's comments. He said that the Assembly has had more successes than failures in most of its subject areas: health, education, transport, economic regeneration etc., quite right. But I must disagree with him when he claims that it is these successes that have made the idea of an Assembly more popular now than it was 10 years ago.
I went to my boys' school open day yesterday. Things in schools have changed a lot since I was a child in the Heath / Wilson era. The Assembly may have caused many of those changes, but none of the changes that I saw jumped out and bit me as Assembly driven changes.
I was poorly under the doctor when John Redwood was Secretary of State for Wales. I've been poorly under the doctor since the Assembly started too! Things have changed, but to me those changes have been at the doctor's surgery and in the hospital, not in Cardiff Bay.
The Assembly's economic policies have transform employment opportunities in Wales, but I doubt that any unemployed worker who gets a job will offer a big thank you to the Assembly, because s/he realises that it's the Assembly's economic competence that made that job available!
The thing that has put the Assembly on the map, and made it practically relevant to the people of Wales is Rhodri's Freebies.
Of course, from a moral point of view, a super rich pensioner shouldn't have a free bus pass. The children of millionaires shouldn't have free swimming sessions. Billionaires shouldn't have free prescriptions and Trillionaires shouldn't go into our museums without paying a cent. But it is these freebies that have made the Assembly immediately relevant to the people of Wales.
It’s the little freebies rather than the huge changes in health, transport, the economy etc that have made the big difference in attitude to the Assembly.
When Nain (Grandma) visits, because she can - on her free bus pass - that's when my family knows that the Assembly has made a difference!
I can think of a million and one reasons for opposing all of Rhodri's Freebies, but there is little doubt that it is they, more than anything else, that has made devolution relevant to most people in Wales.
Shame that an academic of Dicw's ability failed to recognise this fact in his analysis.