At last. After 12 years of devolved government, we reach a satisfactory constitutional settlement. For 12 years its been unfinished business. Today we voted for the settlement we should have agreed in 1997. There will continue to be capacity for constitutional conflict but we have finally acquired a devolved settlement blessed with logic and stability.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I considered the Government of Wales Act 1998 to be inadequate. Having been an opponent of establishing a National Assembly in 1997, I even more thought the idea of our National Assembly without primary law making powers to be utterly pointless. Immediately after its establishment in 1999, I have supported the transfer of law making powers in all devolved policy areas.
I've admitted to being no fan of the referendum held today. It had to be held, because of the requirments of the 2006 Act, but I'm not at all sure it was appropriate. There was a stronger case for a referendum on the 2006 Act, which conceded the principle of granting primary law making powers to the Assembly. All we have actually done today is speed up the process agreed in 2006. It's also been odd holding a referendum where few voters fully understood what it was all about. This is where I become partisan. The referendum would have been held if Cheryl Gillan had not become Secretary of State last May. On taking office, she committed herself to delivering what had been requested by the National Assembly the previous February - with a single minded determination to delivered. In my opinion, no Labour Sec. of State would have delivered it. She has delivered for Wales
I was pleased that Powys voted Yes, if only by a whisker. The vote was too close for me to know for certain that Montgomeryshire voted Yes, but I think it probably did. I would not have been at all surprised if it had been a No vote, because of the anger that we feel about the way the Deputy First Minister has treated us over the appalling transport problems he has visited upon Newtown. I reckon that cost the Yes side about 1000 votes.
It will take a while until we see any obvious difference, but I'm looking forwards to more clarity in the public mind about responsibilities - which will create greater accountability. It was a slightly better turn-out and margin of victory than I'd expected. All in all, its been a good day for Wales