Gareth Ceidiog Hughes
‘Welsh Assembly’ was always a terrible name for our democratic institution.
It is drab, uninspiring, and sounds like something you would attend at school. It is not a name that evokes status and grandeur, and I suspect that may well be the reason why it was picked in the first place. I didn’t really care at the time. I was just happy that Wales was getting its own democracy.
The Scottish Parliament has been known as such since its inception and this not only reflects that it had much more power at that time, but in the higher level of confidence the Scots had in having their own democracy.
The referendum to establish the institution formerly known as the Welsh Assembly was won by the narrowest of narrow margins. It had little power at its inception and was derided as a talking shop. The name reflected this. Perhaps an uninspiring name was necessary to get those sceptical about Welsh devolution on board. But that does not mean I have to like it.
Thankfully things have changed a great deal since the advent of devolution. A referendum on further powers was won handsomely in 2011 and the institution has gained powers over significant areas of legislation.
Like a teenager stuck in the clothes of a small child, the Welsh legislature stuck with a name that didn’t reflect its growth for many years.
This is no longer the case, and the institution is known as Welsh Parliament in English and Senedd Cymru in Welsh.
When the name change was being debated, there was a bit of a row about whether the institution should have a dual language name or not. I happen to see it from both sides. I like the idea of it having a Welsh name and I will mostly refer to it as Senedd, and I fully expect a great many people to do the same. It accords with my desire to raise the status of the Welsh language, and with my view that it belongs to everyone in Wales, whether they speak it or not. But it was not a hill I was prepared to be gunned down upon, and I can also see some benefits to having a dual language name.
It could help with public understanding of the role of the institution in their lives. The word senedd, although very similar indeed to senate, is still relatively unfamiliar to many people in Wales.
People understand what parliament means now. It is a word that signifies an institution with status, an institution with legislative power. When half the Welsh electorate doesn’t know that health is devolved, this is not an insignificant factor. I am sympathetic to the argument that having a dual language name could aid with developing public understanding of the Senedd.
There is no doubt in my mind that the people of Wales can come to view the word Senedd and Parliament as having the same status. Putting those words side by side could well help the public understand that they are. From what I have seen thus far, even with the dual-language name, the institution seems to leading with the Senedd Cymru. The direction of travel does seem to be set towards having a fully Welsh language name in the future, and that is something that I am quite content with.
One particularly pleasing aspect of using the word parliament to denote our legislature is that it has annoyed all of the right people. It has got right up the nose of those who want to destroy Welsh democracy, and would prefer we lick the boots of the Westminster establishment.
They are aghast that the people of Wales have the temerity to believe they are more than capable of making their own decisions. They know that it is harder to delegitimise a body with the status of a parliament than it is a mere assembly. Abolish the parliament has a decidedly undemocratic ring to it.
Well, they are just going to have to get over it I’m afraid. It won’t stop their anti-democratic campaign of course. But it will make it more awkward. Abolish the Assembly will have to change the name of their party if it is to make any sense.
Well ha bloody ha. Though, they don’t place a particularly high premium on making sense come to think of it.
I believe that we should be happy that we now have name that is commensurate to the institution’s power and status. It is a vote of confidence in Welsh democracy. It is a vote of confidence in the people of Wales and their ability to make their own decisions.
The previous name showed a lack of it. As confidence in our democracy grows, the power and status invested by the people of Wales in our legislature will grow even more.