23/09/2011

Welsh Fiscal and Constitutional Commission #1

On the IWA's blog Click on Wales, John Osmond has some interesting comments about the progress of the soon to be formed Welsh Fiscal and Constitutional Commission dubbed ap Calman by some. At the end of his article John makes a rather disturbing comment:
Plaid Cymru’s nominee is likely to be its economics adviser Eurfyl ap Gwilym who is currently also heading its Commission looking at the party’s organisation and policy in the wake of its poor election results in May.

However, a question mark is hanging over Plaid Cymru’s involvement. This is because the Cabinet Office have suggested amending the Commission’s terms of reference agreed last July so that, in addition to examining the “current constitutional settlement in the light of experience and recommend changes”, it would have the words added: “and continue to secure the position of Wales within the UK”. According to leading figures in the party, if such an addition finds its way into the terms of reference that eventually emerge, the motivation would be to ensure that Plaid Cymru does not participate in the Commission.
The original Calman commission was set up by the unionist parties in Scotland as a response to Alex Salmond's National Conversation on the constitution of Scotland; the theory being that the Nats could have a conversation amongst themselves about Independence, the other parties would have a commission talking about Scotland's constitutional future within the UK.

It appears that some wise soul has decided that the Welsh Fiscal and Constitutional Commission should be held along similar lines. I'm not sure why though, because it shows a lack of appreciation of how the Welsh experience of devolution has differed to the Scottish one.

In Scotland the Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem's MPs shared visceral hatred of the Nationalists was transferred into the Scottish Parliament and has helped the SNP by creating a narrative where only one party stands up for Scotland in the Scottish Parliament elections. Both Rhodri Morgan's clear red water and Nick Bourn's clear blue water have created (at least the illusion of) Labour and Conservative parties that patriotic Welsh voters can support on a Welsh electoral stage. The clear coloured waters have enabled all of the big four parties to create a fairly consensual Welsh attitude to the evolution of devolution, despite doubts expressed by Westminster colleagues such as Peter Hain and Stephen Crabb.

This has been a problem for Plaid, because of the clear coloured waters; the London Parties jibe doesn't have the same resonance in Wales as it has in Scotland.

Almost everybody in Wales knows that Plaid Cymru members go to bed at night and dream about constitutional matters! The idea of a Constitutional Commission from which Plaid is artificially excluded will be seen as a farce by most Welsh people. From a purely electoral point of view, excluding Plaid from the commission will be manna for Plaid – without Plaid's input the Commission will be a London body dictating how Wales should be run! Is this how those setting up the Commission wish to see it perceived?

Should Plaid join the Commission, in spite of the Westminster centred politicians? Or ignore it as an insult to Wales?
I think that I know where I stand on this question, but it would be interesting to hear other's views before declaring!

6 comments:

  1. Absentionism never looks good, it looks petulant and schoolboyish. However if the Commission is going to have its remit restricted then what is the point?

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  2. Plaid shouldn't take part in this commission. Simple.

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  3. BetterWales23/09/2011 11:23

    I really don't think anyone cares, least of all the people of Wales.

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  4. Plaid is showing backbone over this, and about time. They have been integral to all constitutional developments in Wales since the beginning of devolution, including helping build consensus with the Unionist parties. Plaid should take part in this, on the condition that their terms are met.

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  5. The problem is, if the terms of reference at the outset are not clear the outcome will be meaningless.

    And this is precisely what has happened in Wales over the last fifty years.

    Perhaps we need two commissions.

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  6. why bother. It'll be like the Richard Report. Lots of energy wasted for Labour to do nothing in case they win in London in 2015.

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