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Opinion

Hwre for the Commission!

20 Jan 2024 5 minute read
Rowan Williams and Laura McAllister

Gwern Gwynfil

The report of the constitutional commission is a great piece of work. Detailed, comprehensive and presented in an understandable and easily digestible way.

This is important. All of Wales should be included in the conversation about the future of Wales. All of Wales should understand the reality of the present situation. All of Wales should understand the nature of the options we need to discuss. The report lays it out and gives us the foundation for a real national conversation about our future.

More importantly the report has set a template for engagement, consideration and cooperation. Commissioners were drawn from all the main parties leavened with those without political affiliation. Open minds the core criteria it would seem. Unanimity in the report is a testament to the spirit with which they approached their task and worked together throughout the process.

The report uses data and analysis with a huge amount of proactive public engagement across Wales. Not just geographically but demographically too. This really has been an inclusive and comprehensive process. Expertise was embraced, people were listened to, research was as exhaustive as it could be with available time and resources.

Let’s celebrate the commission, and give its report the respect and attention it deserves. Let’s all hold our political leaders to account and ensure that they recognise that this is a first step in finding our way to a better constitutional arrangement. Let’s insist that everyone, whatever their current position, brings an open mind and rigour to their own analysis of what will be best for Wales and the people who live here over the coming decades.

The Options

 Of the three options only two emerge as realistic prospects. All three have advantages and disadvantages but federalism is clearly a pipedream. There is no appetite for this across the UK and it is simply not an option that can exist without a desire for it coupled with the application of will across the nations. The data, when it comes to popular opinion, coupled with the dominance of England and Parliamentary sovereignty within that existing arrangement, make it abundantly clear that this option simply won’t ride.

On the other hand, enhanced devolution is a very attractive short term fix for the inadequacies of the current settlement. A Westminster government open to throwing itself into this option, redressing the iniquities and imbalances of the current settlement, creating a more cohesive division of power, a better funding arrangement and then enshrining these in binding laws – such a government might win the whole of Wales to a new appreciation of Union as a joint venture. A real partnership for the greater good of all.

The fundamental flaw for this model is the nature of Parliamentary sovereignty. No matter how brave and bold and beautiful an enhanced devolution settlement may be, at any point a different government in Westminster could dissolve it all in an instant. The vulnerability of the settlement would be permanent, the tyranny of the majority outside Wales would always be the quicksand beneath our shallow democracy.

Independence is the high risk, high reward option. Over the medium to long term it absolutely delivers the best outcome for Wales but there is a point of considerable risk at the transition from vassal to independent state. A point of risk which must be acknowledged and embraced by those who believe in independence as the game changing long term answer which creates the better, brighter future Wales deserves.

A grown up approach to separation, conducted with partners, who also realise that their own long term interest would be best served by being independent nations, would ameliorate most of this risk.

Is there a scenario where the whole of the UK can sit down together at the same time to plan the last unwinding of the old Empire? A gradual and controlled separation, giving time and space for Unionists in Northern Ireland to acclimatise to a United Ireland, to give Scotland a clear and steady path to independence, to let Wales build the structure it needs and decide, with its people, on its new constitution as an independent country, to give England the opportunity to carve itself a new international identity as a nation rather than the fading tail of Victoria’s Empire.

Setting an Example

Whichever path Wales takes to independent statehood, whatever the timeline that follows, we can be certain that this commission has shown Wales how to approach its future governance and decision making. Collaborative, rigorous and transparent, a wholehearted embrace of public discourse, a clear instruction to educate and inform.

A desire harking back to the civic nationalism of the internationally celebrated Welsh political philospher, Richard Price. It is for Wales now to return to that tradition of reasoned political discourse, to move away from the limitations and noise of social media conflict and confrontation.

All of us must engage relentlessly and constructively with those who limit themselves to a desire to trade insults from entrenched positions. Reason and clarity can and will triumph. It may not be swift but as we scatter the seeds today so in the years to come we will reap the harvest of understanding in a more mature public forum. Yes, many seeds will fail to germinate, it takes time and toil to improve barren soil and make it fertile, but many will blossom and flower.

We’ve been shown the way and given a guide, the commission is money, time and effort extremely well spent. It is now for us, as individuals and as a nation, to stick our heads above the parapet and take ourselves forward. With ambition, bravery and confidence – let’s see where it takes us and be sure that we work toward a destination which improves our lives and those of future generations.

Read the full report here.


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Y Cymro
Y Cymro
5 months ago

I hope with this commission the findings are implemented. I can recall both Richard’s & Silk commissions where it highlighted the then Welsh Assembly (Senedd Cymru) flaws and mentioned the institution needed more powers and increased capacity but UK Labour kicked both findings into the long grass and nothing was done. And sure things are moving in the right direction. We now have a Senedd Cymru which will soon see it’s capacity rise from 60 to 96, no thanks to UK Labour, so the institution can finally function after 24 years. But the irony is. It was the the Conservatives,… Read more »

GCJ
GCJ
5 months ago

Erthygl da iawn Gwern.

Gwern Gwynfil
Gwern Gwynfil
5 months ago
Reply to  GCJ

Diolch!

Crwtyn Cemais
Crwtyn Cemais
5 months ago

‘Hwre’ wir! Gwaith a chasgliadau eithriadol o dda gan aelodau’r Comisiwn – pob clod iddynt. Hefyd, neges hanfodol gan Gwern Gwynfil yn y paragraff gobennol. ~ ‘Hooray’ indeed! Exceptional work and conclusions by members of the Commission – thoroughly deserving of praise. A vital message also from Gwern Gwynfil, in the penultimate paragraph.

Annibendod
Annibendod
5 months ago

Gwern nails it in terms of his analysis of the options. A federal UK with Westminster as the seat of central government does not work because England is too big to accept its voting power being diluted within such a union. The problem with further devolution is the primacy/sovereignty of the HoC. This is a particular principle for fundamentalist Tories. That and FPTP is their route to their majoritarian democratic dictatorship of the UK. Our Senedd is not safe so long as that constitutional arrangement persists. What I found most disappointing but not the biggest surprise, is that a majority… Read more »

Garry Jones
Garry Jones
5 months ago

This article is a considered and balanced evaluation of the three viable options identified by the Future of Wales Commission. It could also have been part of the Commission’s balanced conclusion, were the Final Report to have been a little more explicit in its findings. 

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