Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Welsh Referendum

There will be a referendum held in Wales a week tomorrow (3rd March 2011). In recent years there has been increasing use of referenda on "Constitutional issues" within the UK. The setting up of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly was preceded by a referendum in each country. There have also been referenda in parts of England on proposals for enhanced regional government. (London voted Yes [1998], all the others voted No [2004]). Referenda have been more frequently used in Northern Ireland.

Wales has itself had two referenda on devolution - both asked whether the Welsh people wanted a National Assembly to be set up - in 1979 (NO); and in 1997 (YES). The current referendum is about whether the Assembly should be able to to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas which it currently has some powers.
For more information on the Welsh referendum visit the (politically neutral) website of the Electoral Commission - accessible here.

There will be a national UK referendum on 5th May 2011, on adopting the Alternative Vote, in place of the current voting system (which is often described as the "first past the post system"). It is only the second referendum held across the UK. The first was in 1975, over continued membership of the then EEC (now European Union). The question was -  '"Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?".
67.2 percent voted Yes and 32.8 percent voted No.

Other "Constitutional changes" have been adopted without a referendum - such as transfer of further powers to the European Union and (Royal Assent to the Act was given on February 16th), the reduction in the size of the House of Commons (from 650 to 600).