My personal opinion is that a referendum is not needed and that Plaid made a boo-boo by not insisting that the referendum clause in the Government of Wales Act 2006 was dropped as part of the coalition agreement with Labour last year. But that is now water under the bridge, I suppose that we now have to live with the reality of a referendum being held sometime.
Adam makes a fair point about the way in which Alex Salmond's proposed referendum on independence may affect the Welsh referendum campaign:
With the Bill being presented in January 2010 it's likely the referendum - on opening independence negotiations - would be in October. Whatever the result is, the Scottish campaign will overshadow the very different question that will be before us in Wales.
I agree with this point. But I would say that this is an argument for holding a referendum sooner rather than later. There is little doubt that from the minute that the referendum bill is put before Holyrood that the British media will give "independence" a lot of coverage. Independence will be in the mind of Welsh voters during any post Scottish referendum - and the NO side will make sure it stays there. Because Plaid has failed to make the case for independence over the last 25 years then a Welsh referendum held after the Scots one will be lost.
Adam argues that a good reason for holding the referendum and the Election on the same day is that supporters of devolution (are) more likely to come out to vote in an Assembly election than those who oppose devolution. He is probably right, but I think that this is a poor reason for holding the referendum and the election on the same day for a number of reasons.
In the first instance I doubt that such a tactic would be beneficial to Mr Price's own party. Holding referendum and election on the same day is sure to entice many who oppose devolution into the polling booth for the first time ever during an Assembly election. Having gone to vote No in the referendum they are likely to vote in the election too but not, I suspect, for Plaid Cymru!
Secondly, Plaid has done this before! Swapped support for Labour referendum plans in exchange for some cynical supposed advantages to the Yes cause. In 1979 the trick was to hold the referendum on St David's day. In 1997 it was to hold the referendum in the wake of a huge Scots Yes, a week after Scotland had voted. Both tricks backfired. They highlighted doubts and uncertainty in the Yes camp which were seized upon like Manna from Heaven by the No campaign.
If there are convincing arguments for extending the Assembly's powers then they can and should be made on their merits, without the need for dirty / clever tricks.
Thirdly, if giving the Assembly legislative powers is seen to be an important enough issue to demand a referendum, then it is an important enough issue to justify it's own campaign period where the arguments for and against can be made clearly, rather than being muddled with a general election campaign.
Finally, I can't see how electors can decide who to vote for in the election if they don't know what sort of body the candidate is to be elected to. Will all parties have two manifestos in 2011, one for a legislative parliament (if Yes wins) and another for a consultative Assembly (just in case the vote goes No)? What if I prefer the Tories Assembly Programme but the Lib Dems Parliamentary programme? Before casting my vote I would have to second guess the outcome of the referendum!
Holding the referendum and the election on the same day is bad politics, bad democracy and bad tactics. It is totally unacceptable and should be opposed now, before it becomes the cosy Plaid / Lab consensus!