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Wales votes 'yes' but workers' party needed
There was a predictably low turnout in the referendum for more law-making powers for the Welsh Assembly, but the result shows a significant support for devolution just as the cuts from Westminster come crashing into Wales. On the day of the referendum result 250 job losses at Companies House in Cardiff were announced.
By a margin of nearly 2:1, voters supported the move to allow measures passed by the Welsh Assembly on devolved areas to become law without the consent of the Westminster parliament. This brings the Assembly into line with powers of the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly.
The low turnout of 35% reflects working people's suspicion for all politicians and the obscure nature of the question in the 172 word referendum which read: "The National Assembly for Wales - what happens at the moment. The Assembly has powers to make laws on 20 subject areas, such as agriculture, education, the environment, health, housing, local government. In each subject area, the Assembly can make laws on some matters, but not others.
"To make laws on any of these other matters, the assembly must ask the UK Parliament for its agreement. The UK Parliament then decides each time whether or not the assembly can make these laws. The Assembly cannot make laws on subject areas such as defence, tax or welfare benefits, whatever the result of this vote. If most voters vote 'yes' - the Assembly will be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it has powers for, without needing the UK Parliament's agreement. If most voters vote 'no' - what happens at the moment will continue. Do you want the Assembly now to be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it has powers for?"
Nevertheless the result was a significant 'yes' vote which indicated an even further shift of support for devolution in Wales. In 1997 the referendum to establish the assembly was passed by the narrowest of margins, the vote splitting virtually 50-50. Cardiff for example voted heavily against. This year 21 of the 22 local authority areas voted in favour. Only affluent Monmouthshire on the English border voted against - by just 300 votes. And Cardiff voted heavily in favour of further powers.
All four main capitalist parties in Wales campaigned for a 'yes 'vote. The 'no' vote was partly boosted by the cynicism with politicians and, had voters seen the back-slapping celebrations when the result was announced before they voted, there would have been a drop in the 'yes' vote.
The vote marks another stage in the process of Welsh autonomy. Socialist Party Wales supported a 'yes' vote. We support full powers for the Assembly including control over the legal system and tax-raising powers.
But above all a workers' party is needed to represent working people in Wales that can lead the fight in the Assembly and outside against the vicious cuts coming out of Westminster and being passed on by the Assembly.
Still the Assembly leaders will be under more pressure to defend public services in Wales. As one steel worker remarked "now they have no excuse for cocking it up."
In The Socialist 9 March 2011:
Socialist Party youth and students
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party feature