The referendum campaign on allowing the National Assembly to legislate on the devolved fields without having to seek approval from Westminster has begun. The Yes campaign launched earlier this month and True Wales launched their No campaign this week.
But there’s a twist. True Wales have said that they will not seek recognition as the official No campaign claiming that they don’t want to waste the tax payer’s money (it will save £140k while the current LCO system costs millions, but that’s for later).
I’ve said this many times but the real reason why True Wales are not seeking official status as the No campaign is because that would almost certainly lose them the referendum. Why am I saying this? Under the Electoral Commission’s rules official campaigns have to be fought based on the facts, which is the scope of the referendum question.
In this case the question is should the National Assembly solely have the right to create measures (legislate) within the twenty devolved fields (agriculture, transport, education, health, culture, environment etc) or should we keep to the present LCO system, with Westminster having a say on the scope of any proposed measures.
True Wales however want to drag the campaign on to their ground, which is their accusation that this would be a step towards independence and tear the UK apart, and that they would like to see the Assembly scrapped altogether. They couldn’t campaign on any of this if they were recognised as the official No campaign. Under an official No banner they would be constrained to campaigning on the question at hand not on any imagined monsters hiding in the broom cupboard. So instead of having to constrain themselves to some pesky rules they’ve decided to campaign unofficially releasing them of any obligation to telling the truth and saying any stories they might wish to win people over. It’s a deliberate and cynical attempt in order to scare people into voting No.
This became patently obvious on Dragon’s Eye last night when Rachel Banner of True Wales claimed that a Yes vote would be another step towards independence.
Whatever your opinion on independence or the British Union the fact is that this referendum will not take Wales any further down any road, be that towards independence or eliminating the Assembly. The principle of allowing Wales to legislate – Welsh answers to Welsh questions – has already been accepted in the Government of Wales Act 2006. The Welsh Assembly has had the right to legislate since then. The reason that it has not done so as often as we might wish is because the current LCO system is so cumbersome and painfully long.
The question put in front of us on the 3rd of March is a technical question. Which structure do we think is the best to serve us. Whatever the result the Welsh Assembly will continue to legislate post March 3rd.
The reason that the political classes are united in favour of a Yes vote is because they see how ineffective the current structure is. It’s an hindrance to effective governance; it’s an obstacle to policy development and effective scrutiny, and it holds everything back for years.
If we want to see the National Assembly in its current guise fulfil its potential and serve the people of Wales in the most effective way possible (and most cost-effective way) then we must vote Yes on March 3rd. It’s nothing more and nothing less than that.