Ron Davies said that Devolution was a process not an event. Personally I believe that it is a journey, with an independent Wales being the eventual destination. But before planning the rest of the journey, it is worth reminiscing about some of the sights we have passed on the way:
The first significant step to devolution was not Ron’s assembly, but the disestablishment of the Church in Wales in 1920. This seems almost irrelevant today, but at the time this was a huge step as it represented the first official recognition that the 1536 Act of Union had failed to integrate Wales into England. Opposition at the time claimed that Wales was not a nation but simply a geographical area of England – How I would love to hear Peter Hain say that on TV today!!
In the 50s and 60s the UK governments tried to defuse growing Welsh aspirations by deliberately ignoring the Welsh border with such public bodies as the Merseyside & North Wales Electricity Board (Manweb), Television for Wales & West (TWW), and Welsh Water – which covered only 90% of Wales, but included large parts of England. We were given a series of colonial governors instead of democracy, and the recommendations of the Kilbrandon Commission were ignored.
At this point I have to confess to voting No in 1979, not because I opposed devolution, but I did not want Wales to become a super-county – something like Yorkshire. In hindsight I am not sure that was the right decision, but through perseverance we eventually got a more meaningful Assembly, even if we were first given a puppet leader in Alun Michael.
The original Assembly was toothless, but was strengthened gradually from within, with our patronizingly named First Secretary becoming our First Minister, and their Assembly becoming our Senedd. True to form, the UK politicians ignored the Richards Commission, and we will now get an Assembly Mark 2 instead of a Parliament.
But the more the unionists resist change, and implement half baked solutions, then the more the people of Wales will insist on further change. Opinion polls show that there is now an overwhelming demand for a full parliament, and support for independence is growing steadily.
In just under 20 years, we will ‘celebrate’ the 500th anniversary of our annexation by England – Our goal must be to see that this anniversary is not reached. We now need to plan the rest of our journey.