John Broughton is a Tory activist in North Wales.
The 1997 referendum leading to the establishment of the Welsh Assembly was far from emphatic with only 25.2% of the electorate voting in favour, certainly not a mandate for such a major constitutional change. However the Assembly is now an established fact of Welsh life although almost invisible in North Wales.
Since it was set up, additional powers have been transferred to the Assembly without any further referendum or consent from the people of Wales. In 2006 the Assembly was given the ability to pass Welsh laws relating to any of the 20 devolved areas, but only subject to their scrutiny in advance by the Secretary of State for Wales, the House of Commons, and House of Lords.
A referendum is to be held on 3rd March to decide if the Assembly can take power to make laws applicable to Wales only in the 20 devolved areas without any external or second chamber scrutiny. Given that a new Assembly is to be elected on 5th May it is difficult to understand why the referendum is not contemporaneous. Holding the two polls on the same day would have increased turnout and saved the taxpayer £5-8 million.
The motive force behind this further devolution is Plaid who are envious of the progress their nationalist friends in Scotland have made toward total devolution and independence. However Plaid fails to recognize the geographic differences to Scotland where our economy and public services are very much east-west and tied to major towns and cities in England – Liverpool, Manchester, Chester, Shrewsbury, Birmingham, Bristol and London.