Time for a Referendum Rethink

Almost two years exactly ago, during the tortuous coalition negations I made this comment:

The only thing that would make me support a Red-Green coalition would be a guarantee that the Government of Wales Act 2006 will be amended to give Full Law Making powers to the Assembly without the need for a referendum

Others disagreed, they thought that the Red-Green coalition could both make the coalition happen and guarantee a yes vote.

Things are very different now.

Support for devolution is stronger now than it has ever been, but it is a well known fact that votes in referendums are often used as much to kick the government of the day, as they are to express an opinion on the issue in question. The 1979 disaster was as much to do with the unpopularity of the tired, old, failing Callaghan Government that proposed it as it was about devolution. The scrape through in 1997 was partially to do with the fresh new popular government of Tony Blair.

If a referendum was called by Mr Brown and Mr Hain tomorrow, I fear that too many supporters of devolution would cut their noses off to spite their face and either not vote or vote No! Those opposed to Labour would seize their chance and vote this time, despite not voting last time, as a means of kicking Labour in the teeth.

What if we wait 12 months and get an agreement that a Tory government will support the holding of a referendum in 2011?

Despite last weeks vote there are too many people in Wales who hate the hairy arsed Tory monster who would also cut their noses off to spite their faces just because it was a Conservative government who called the referendum.

I fear that the window for a referendum has been lost. We could be stuck with the present cumbersome eLCO system (which has yet to deliver a Welsh Law) until about 2030.

The only chance left is for Plaid to play its Trump card and to tell Labour All deals are off unless the GoW Act 2006 is amended in this Parliamentary Session

I realise that some people might think that such a move would be bad, especially after Labour has reneged on its Lisbourn Referendum promise. But there are two reason why I think that such a deal would be justified.

Firstly if a referendum was held and voted No tomorrow all the powers in the Act would still, eventually, be available to Wales through the eLCO process, a process that is bogged down at the moment, and isn't working well. There is a practical justification for just doing away with this tortuous process. There is also something immoral in the present clause that the powers may be transferred in a different way even if we vote No.

Secondly the media, academia and many devolutionist have described the next step in the evolution of devolution for Wales as "Scottish Powers". Scottish powers are what have been envisaged in most polls. Scottish Powers will not be available through the current GoW act referendum provision, just legislative powers on current assembly powers without the need for eLCOs. To amend the Act to make true Scottish Powers available in a referendum sometime in the distant future, would keep within the spirit of the promise.

Plaid Cymru must consider this position urgently, before the current Westminster Parliament is dissolved


  1. It's a point, and may be true with some voters, but a bigger danger would be protest voters staying at home, letting the mobilised No camp in.

    However, you - especially in the wake of such bizzare results in the Euro election (only 30% turnout, though, remember!) - may be not giving the Welsh electorate the credit they deserve.

    I seriously doubt that on an issue such as Full Powers - patently more relevant to ordinary people than the Euro Parliament - that Welsh people would use the opportunity to register a protest knowing full well it would have a seriously negative impact on services and other issues that affect their every day lives.

    It's a bad time for politics, but this furore will die down and people will start thinking about real issues again, and if the Yes Campaign puts forward a consistently powerful case, and expose the Unionist agenda for what it really is, then people WILL vote intelligently and wholeheartedly 'yes'.

    Full powers for the Assembly - so obviously needed - should be enough of a focus to counter any (improbable, in my view) anti-politician protest.

    Westminster politics' troubles should be our GAIN, we should be able to grasp the opportunity to use it to further our case, not see a half empty glass and shy away from the challenge.

    And anyway, the Tories will be in power in London soon, which will further sharpen people's focus on the need for Full Powers.

    The slogan should be 'Where Will We Be When The Tories Return? Full Powers Now!'

  2. I agree with Pysgodlyn. Can't see voters in Wales using a referendum to give the incumbent government a kick. I think the psychology was different in 1979.

    Which brings us to Plaid. There's not a hope in hell that Plaid will use the "trump card", although I agree they do hold it. Ieaun Wyn Jones just hasn't got the backbone, and Plaid as a party just hasn't got the killer instinct to pull off such a bold (and principled) move.

    Just compare and contrast with Scotland, where Salmond has the bottle to carry a minority SNP administration forward with such flair, making Labour look like idiots at every opportunity...

  3. Alwyn, what about in new coalition negotiations after Morgan's retirement?

    Assuming that the executive will be officially dissolved when he does as a legal instrument, might Plaid make it a bargaining chip for any deal with a new Labour leader?

    The only snag is that said leader might talk to the LibDems instead, and delay any prospect of a referendum further.

    What do you think?