Why I support Devo-Max for Wales
Mike Hedges MS
We have had three devolution settlements for Wales, and we are no closer to a long-term settlement than we were before the first.
The latest poll by Beauford Research showed the two extreme positions having very little support, with abolish the Senedd with 17% and Independence on 16%.
What we need to do is make devolution work for the people of Wales.
In Britain we have seen different devolution settlements for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as different areas devolved to London and the larger city regions of England.
We have what is meant to be a reserved powers model in Wales, following the most recent settlement, but the host of reservations within supposedly devolved areas makes a mockery of such a definition.
I support Devo-Max which gives fiscal autonomy and is a particular form of far-reaching devolution that has been proposed for Scotland and Wales.
The term has come to be described a constitutional arrangement in which instead of receiving a block grant from the UK Exchequer as it is at present, the Scottish Parliament or the Senedd would receive all taxation levied in Scotland or Wales.
It would be responsible for most spending in Scotland or Wales but make payments to the UK government to cover Scotland or Wales’ share of the cost of providing certain UK-wide services.
This would need protection because currently Wales raises substantially less than it receives in the block grant and a balancing method of funding is needed to ensure Wales is no worse off than it is now.
Surely the question to be asked is what needs to be controlled by Westminster in order to benefit the whole of the United Kingdom as opposed to what each ministerial department desires to keep under its control.
There are the obvious areas that need to be held centrally such as defence, foreign affairs, national security, currency, interest rates, overseas aid, immigration, driver and car licensing, central bank, and National Insurance numbers.
If most or all those areas are devolved, it is called independence not devolution.
There are those it is worthy of discussion over whether they should be devolved or set centrally, the list below is not an exhaustive one:
- Should we have one state pension age and amount for the United Kingdom or should each jurisdiction set its own?How would that work with movement between England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland?
- Should we have one unified social security system or should each jurisdiction be able to set their own contribution levels and payments? Same question as above.
- Should alcohol and tobacco duty be same to avoid cross border movement?
- Should there be UK taxes to pay for the centrally funded items with all other taxes devolved and collected locally?
How will financial support from the wealthier to the poorer regions be organised and maintained despite the statements of YesCymru, Wales is a net beneficiary of the sharing of resources.
Everything does not have to be devolved to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland or the English city regions at the same time.
What we need is a list of items which are available to be devolved with each Parliament or Mayoral area needing at least two-thirds of members voting in favour before it is devolved. This is what happened in Northern Ireland when
policing was devolved.
This avoids “big bang” devolution where control of everything passed on one day but allows for matters to be devolved as the parliaments and Mayors are ready for them and funding agreed.
The advantage of this is that it sets an end point of the devolution journey outside of creating new countries. It allows every area to move at a pace it is comfortable with but with a common end point.
Devolution in Wales does not have to end in Cardiff. Devolution within Wales is possible to the four regions Wales. What powers would be better devolved to local authorities needs to be discussed and decided.
The twentieth century was almost a one-way movement of control away from local councils including water, further education, and policing.
The question surely should be where the best decisions will be taken for the local population and that is not always in the Senedd.
Devolution in Wales is a journey, but it must not be a journey that only ends in Cardiff. For true devolution, powers will also be devolved to the regions and councils of Wales.
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