From tomorrow onwards the National Assembly of Wales will be no more – it will be known as Senedd Cymru, or the Welsh Parliament.
In practice, most politicians, the public and media outlets (like this one) are likely to call it just ‘the Senedd’, as has been the custom for some time.
Why is the name changing? When the Welsh Assembly was set up it did not have law-making powers or the ability to vary taxes, and chose a name that didn’t imply it had more powers than it did.
The new name reflects the Senedd’s constitutional status as a national parliament, as voted for in the 2011 devolution referendum which was won by the ‘Yes’ side by 63% to 36%.
The new name will also help the public understand what the institution does, as an ‘Assembly’ is a less familiar term in the UK, while parliament is already commonly understood because of its use by the Westminster and Scottish Parliaments.
There is also hope that it will make clearer than the legislative body, the Senedd, is a separate institution to the executive, the Welsh Government.
Before changing the name, the Assembly consulted with the public to find out what they would like to call the institution. The public backed a name change from Assembly to Senedd.
Some Assembly Members argued for an English translation, Welsh Parliament, as well. This was controversial, with the Welsh language society, Cymdeithas yr Iaith, among others, arguing for just Senedd.
But while the official name voted for is Senedd Cymru / Welsh Parliament, the Assembly has made it clear that Senedd will be its prefered name in Welsh and English from tomorrow onwards.
Senedd is the Welsh word for parliament, and has the same Latin root, ‘senatus’, as the word senate in English.
What else changes? Well, now that there is no Welsh Assembly, there are no longer any Assembly Members. They will now be known as Members of the Senedd, or MS for short.
Why not Members of the Welsh Parliament? Some had feared that the acronym, MWP, would make them sound like the muppets.
In Welsh, Members of the Senedd will be known as Aelodau’r Senedd, or AS. This could cause confusion as Members of Parliament who go to Westminster are also known as AS in Welsh.
Westminster’s Members of Parliament may need to find something else to call themselves, as there is no official Welsh name for them as there is now for AS at the Senedd.
Among other changes, the building formerly known as ‘the Senedd’ in Cardiff Bay, where politicians meet to debate, will now be known as… the Senedd – but with ‘building’ added for clarity if needed.
What else? Terms of the Senedd will be known as Seneddau, the Welsh plural of Senedd. The name change isn’t being backdated – past terms of the Assembly will still be called Assemblies.
This present term will be known as the Fifth Assembly until today, and the Fifth Senedd from tomorrow on. What Wikipedia’s record-keepers will make of that, who knows.
Of course, for most people, these changes will largely pass unnoticed, apart from the fact that they will hear Senedd or Welsh Parliament on the news when previous they heard Assembly.
But for Wales, it will be a historic event. It will be the first time a Welsh Parliament has met since Machynlleth under Owain Glyndŵr in 1402, over 600 years ago – although Glyndŵr did not have to meet over Zoom.
Today meanwhile we bid goodbye to the Welsh Assembly. The name ‘Assembly’ has a history that dates back almost 50 years to at least 1971, when the idea of setting up devolved ‘assemblies’ in the UK was mooted by the Kilbrandon Report commissioned by Harold Wilson’s Labour government.
The commission was set up in response to growing demands for home rule or full independence for Wales and Scotland following shock wins for Plaid Cymru and the SNP at the 1966 and 1967 elections.
In 1975 a ‘Wales for the Assembly Campaign’ was set up in order to campaign for Welsh devolution. Elystan Morgan, a former Labour MP became the leader of the campaign group.
The devolution referendum in Scotland in 1979 would also have led to the establishment of a Scottish Assembly. But both the Welsh and Scottish referenda were unsuccessful.
By the time the 1997 devolution referenda came around, Scottish devolutionists were campaigning for a Scottish Parliament instead.
However, in Wales the Labour Government decided to once again campaign for an Assembly – perhaps aware that with a tighter vote expected, the idea of a fully-fledged Parliament might scare off those less keen on Welsh autonomy, including some MPs.
Perhaps they were right to think so – only 50.30% backed devolution for Wales at the referendum.
However, with opinion polling showing that 86% now back some form of devolution, and 54% wanting independence or more powers, the institution feels confident enough to take that next step.