This week is 'close of play' for making submissions to the All Wales Convention, which was established to advise the Assembly Government on whether it should ask the UK Government to arrange a referendum on whether full law making powers should be transferred to Cardiff Bay. My consistently expressed view has been that this Convention is an expensive and unnecessary exercise in prevarication. Nothing more than a convenient excuse for Ieuan Wyn Jones to justify reneging on the promise he made to his own party to hold such a referendum before May 2011. This is not to imply that the Convention and its Chairman, Sir Emyr Jones-Parry have not carried out their remit anything but highly professionally.
This blog post reflects on how the National Assembly appears through the eyes of Montgomeryshire people, and what might be our response if the Assembly Government were to act on a Convention recommendation that a referendum should be held. Lets re-cap. In 1997, Montgomeryshire voted against the establishment of a National Assembly. Because the count was on a Powys basis there are some who dispute this, but, in my view, without any evidence whatsoever. Since 1999, when the Assembly was born, Montgomeryshire has been treated abominably by successive Assembly Governments (again in my opinion). Investment in our transport infrastructure has dried up. Financial settlements for our Council have been amongst the worst in Wales. Our traditional links with Shropshire Hospitals for elective treatment has been undermined. Our CHC is under threat. All but one of our Community Hospitals are under threat. Our landscapes have been earmarked for more wind farms than anywhere else in Wales, and a massive 400kv cable is going to scar one of our beautiful valleys. And the Government still hasn't given the final go-ahead for a desperately needed renal dialysis unit. Its almost as if Assembly Governments have not wanted to win the love and respect of Montgomeryshire people.
In light of the above list, it may come as a surprise to you to learn that I personally favour moving to a referendum and to full law making powers for the Assembly as quickly as practicable. My reasoning is simple. The current devolution settlement as a dangerous recipe for constitutional conflict, which threatens the integrity and cohesiveness of the United Kingdom. So scrap it some of you will say. Admittedly logical, but ain't going to happen. I usually say its like wanting India back. The National Assembly is here to stay, and arguing for abolition is akin to abstaining in a ballot - which is what happened in 1997. That's how we found ourselves with an Assembly in the first place. I want to make the best of it, and in my opinion the best of it is to bin the ludicrous system of powers transfer that exists at present and move as quickly as possible to the settled and stable system of devolution that is where we will reach in the end. But unless the Assembly Government realise that its responsibilities extend to serving the people of Montgomeryshire, its going to be one hell of a job persuading them to vote yes in any referendum.