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Former Archbishop of Canterbury and Wales captain to chair ‘national conversation’ on Wales’ future

19 Oct 2021 3 minutes Read
Rowan Williams and Laura McAllister

A former Archbishop of Canterbury and Welsh international football captain will be co-chairs of an independent Constitutional Commission to consider Wales’ future.

Dr Rowan Williams and Professor Laura McAllister will chair the commission set up by the Welsh Government to engage with the public for a national conversation about the future of Wales.

The aim, according to the Welsh Government, will be to develop options for fundamental reform of the constitutional structures of the UK and how it can best improve outcomes for the people of Wales.

But Laura McAllister said that all options would be in the table – including independence.

The establishment of an independent commission to consider the constitutional future of Wales was a commitment in the Wesh Labour manifesto for the Senedd election.

Following the appointment of the co-chairs the remaining members will be confirmed next month and its first meeting is expected to be in November.

Rowan Williams and Laura McAllister

Professor Laura McAllister is a Professor of Public Policy and the Governance of Wales at Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre. She is an expert on devolution, Welsh politics and elections, public policy and the representation of women in politics.

She is a former Chair of Sport Wales and board member of UK Sport, a current Director of the Football Association of Wales Trust, Deputy Chair of UEFA Women’s Football Committee, and former Wales international football captain with 24 caps.

She said: “Serious contributions to our constitutional debate are greatly needed and I’m looking forward to our work contributing to filling that space.

“We’ll think boldly and radically about all potential options for the future of Wales, in the context of the increasing pressure on the Union.”

Asked whether the commission would also look at independence, she told the BBC it would be “ludicrous to remove any options at this stage”.

“I think everything is supposed to be on the table, quite rightly,” she said. “It’s important to be clear about language. Independence means different things depending on different contexts.”

‘Imaginative’

Dr Rowan Williams, born in Swansea, was the Bishop of Monmouth (1992-2002), and Archbishop of Wales (1999-2002), and then Archbishop of Canterbury (2002-2012).

Since 2014 he has been Chancellor of the University of South Wales and Chair of the international development charity Christian Aid.

He commented: “This Commission’s job is to ask what structures and constitutional provisions will best release the potential of Welsh communities and Welsh people.

“We want to make sure that the governance of Wales is effective, accountable and imaginative, and look forward to hearing what hopes and visions are animating people around the country.”

Wales’ Senedd manifesto at May’s election said that the UK was a voluntary association of four nations with sovereignty shared among its four democratic legislatures in Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“We support the UK-wide Constitutional Commission being established by the Labour Party to drive forward much-needed change to a system of governance of the UK that is irreparably broken and will remain so without a UK Labour Government,” they said.

“Welsh Labour will fight for radical constitutional change based on the principles of federalism and in the next Senedd we will lead Wales in a national civic conversation about our constitutional future.

“We will build on the work of the Senedd Committee on electoral reform, chaired by Welsh Labour’s Dawn Bowden, and develop proposals to improve the representation of the people of Wales in their Parliament.”

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Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago

What’s the bet that they completely rubbish the idea of independence and come to the foregone conclusion that ‘it’s not an option’.

Dim problem
Dim problem
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

What harm is there in giving them the chance to reach their own conclusions?

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago
Reply to  Dim problem

Not a supporter of independence then?

And I think you mean foregone conclusions.

Dim problem
Dim problem
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

I’m ambivalent about independence. You assume the conclusion is foregone. I don’t. I’ll wait to see what they actually come up first.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago
Reply to  Dim problem

In all honesty I hope you’re right (about the commission) but given that it has been set up by Welsh Labour Government with their own ideas about the constitutional future of Wales I very much doubt that it’ll tell Welsh Labour what it doesn’t want to hear.

CJPh
CJPh
1 month ago

Prof. McAllister has pushed hard to appear (or actually be) as impartial as possible as a pundit whenever she is on TV – not a bad shout, but unionists will (rightly) point to her having stood for Plaid in the past. Dr. Williams is a better shout – his background in philosophy is exactly what is needed to balance out the more data-driven tendencies of these sorts of endeavors. If we want to win over the public in a lasting way, we must go beyond the economic case and polling data. those last few “I see your point but…” folks… Read more »

Dim problem
Dim problem
1 month ago
Reply to  CJPh

I honestly hope that their conclusions will be realistic. Not filled with Unionist nonsense about Wales being too small or poor for independence. But also not filled with Nationalist magical thinking that refuses to acknowledge any challenges or trade-offs. And hopefully not filled with the anti-English hatred that fills the hears of some in the Nationalist movement. We’ll never get anywhere as an independent nation if we hate our neighbours.

CJPh
CJPh
1 month ago
Reply to  Dim problem

I hope so too – we already display a higher level of intellectual firepower than the Unionists (on this specific issue) simply by dint of the fact that we play within the rules of the indy language game: the counter arguments, even from better unionist thinkers like Douglas Murray, seem to revolve around trashing nationalism (despite the vast, vast majority of us who are Welsh separatists/secessionists/indy supporters not being ‘nationalists’ in the poli-sci sense of the word – it’s just a by-term for ‘wanting our own country’) or economic, statecraft and other logistical arguments predicated on the system as it… Read more »

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago

It’s great they are finally having this discussion but I believe the people of Wales need this discussion too. Local public consultations should be set up where the pros and cons of independence would be openly aired. I believe the more we talk about independence as a country the more the Welsh public will be won over – by working together we can make a success of it.

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

Yes, looking at all the options would be sensible and the Team look as if they will be independent and not tow any party line.

I came across recently, but have not had time to properly research, the work of Leopold Kohr. He was an academic based in Aberystwyth in the 1970s, whose basic premise for successful nations was ,’Little is Great’.

Perhaps those of us who are in favour of more powers for Wales should investigate his work. It would be nice to have a sound theoretical basis for our arguments.

Crwtyn Cemais
Crwtyn Cemais
1 month ago

Datblygiad calonogol iawn. ~ A very encouraging development.

R W
R W
1 month ago
Reply to  Crwtyn Cemais

It’s a start. Let’s hope it won’t be a whitewash.

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