Last Friday, after two years of work, the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales presented its final report at the Senedd. It recognises the urgent need to improve Welsh democracy and we welcome many of the Commission’s suggestions.
Co-chairs Professor Laura McAllister and The Rt. Hon. Dr Rowan Williams, along with a team of 9 other Commissioners set out to review the strengths and weaknesses of devolution, find out what people in Wales think, and explore options that could improve the future of Wales. This report, as a culmination of all that work, is an important moment for Wales.
The 11 Commissioners were helped by a wider team of 8 Expert Panel members (including our very own Jess Blair, Director of ERS Cymru) and thousands of Welsh people who participated across the country in a National Conversation that shaped this important discussion around Wales’ future.
Reflecting on the report, Prof Laura MacAllister said:
“Through our work, it became clear that the status quo is not sustainable and the needs of the people of Wales are not being met. If Welsh devolution, even as it stands, is to be protected, these changes must take place urgently. We can then look further ahead at these 3 possible routes for Wales’ future, each of which clearly have both challenges and opportunities.
“It’s vital that this report acts as an impetus for change for the people of Wales in the future and we want the conversation to continue. We’ve kickstarted what we hope will be an even bigger, wider dialogue to involve people in future decision making.”
The outcome was clear, the status quo is not sustainable. The cross-party Commission came to a unanimous conclusion. Welsh democracy is at risk unless changes are made, and the Commission made 10 recommendations in its report to this effect.
Three of these recommendations were specifically to strengthen Welsh democracy:
- Democratic innovation
“The Welsh Government should strengthen the capacity for democratic innovation and inclusive community engagement in Wales. This should draw on an expert advisory panel, and should be designed in partnership with the Senedd, local government and other partners. New strategies for civic education should be a priority for this work, which should be subject to regular review by the Senedd.”
- Constitutional principles
“Drawing on this expertise, the Welsh Government should lead a project to engage citizens in drafting a statement of constitutional and governance principles for Wales.”
- Senedd reform
“The planned review of the Senedd reforms should be resourced to ensure a robust and evidence-based analysis of the impact of the changes, including from the perspectives of the voter and of democratic accountability.”
The work of the Commission, and in particular the efforts that they have made to have a national conversation around these really important issues should be welcomed by all political parties. This is an important contribution to discussions around Wales’ future and a strong call to better engage with the people of Wales, with the National Conversation providing a blueprint for better engagement.
It is vital that this work doesn’t end with the publication of the report but paves the way for action and continued engagement with the people of Wales on what our future should look like.
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