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In the News

Developments in devolution: Wales

Mike McCartney

27th March 2024

The new First Minister

Vaughan Getting was recently installed as the new leader of the Welsh Parliament. Background video below.

Questions:

1. What challenges does Vaughan Getting face as the new leader of Welsh Labour?

2. How does Vaughan Getting plan to address the issues with farmers and doctors in Wales?

3. Why is the 20 mph speed limit policy in Wales controversial?

4. How did Vaughan Getting respond to questions about accepting donations from a company involved in illegal waste dumping?

5. Why did Vaughan Getting mention being the first black leader of Welsh Labour in his acceptance speech?

6. What is the significance of Vaughan Getting's historic victory for black representation in politics?

7. How are Vaughan Getting's political opponents already questioning his ability to deliver real change?

Suggested answers:

1. Vaughan Getting faces challenges such as land reform disputes, doctor strikes, and contentious policies.

2. Vaughan Getting plans to address these issues by having conversations and potentially shifting policies.

3. The 20 mph speed limit policy in Wales remains controversial due to public discontent.

4. Vaughan Getting defended accepting donations by stating that they followed all rules and declared everything.

5. Vaughan Getting mentioned being the first black leader to recognise progress and inspire others.

6. Vaughan Gettting's victory signifies progress in black representation in politics and the potential for more change.

7. Vaughan Getting's opponents are questioning his ability to deliver real change despite his historic success.

There is a further profile of Vaughan Getting below...

So much of the coverage of Getting has been about how he can shape Labour's fortunes in Wales, and more generally the path devolution will take in the country. It's worth placing this in the context of the progress of devolution since 1997 across the UK.

The arguments for and against devolution have been trotted out a few times on this blog site. And they go something like this:

The points in favour can roughly be summarised as follows:

  • Democracy has been enhanced within the UK since government is much more region sensitive:, e.g. the congestion charge in London
  • On a separate but related note, the new legislatures act as policy laboratories - e.g. the Scottish first smoking ban
  • The electorates within the devolved regions accept devolution and express the view that it is the preferred system of government.
  • Despite increases in support for the nationalists in Scotland support for independence has never been a sustained majority
  • Within England the vast majority want Scotland and Wales to remain in the Union, thus there has been no English ‘backlash’.
  • The use of proportional electoral systems in the new assemblies has resulted in UK politics becoming much more pluralistic.
  • Devolution has boosted the representation of women in comparison with Westminster.

The points against can roughly be summarised as follows:

  • Devolution is an expensive luxury in terms of the costs of setting up and running the devolved bodies.
  • The raft of different policy measures that have emanated from the devolved assemblies in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have been made possible simply as the result of the unequal distribution of public funds within the UK as allocated by the complex Barnett formula
  • Far from reinvigorating democracy, voters appear to be ‘underwhelmed’ (Curtice) by devolution.
  • Questions still remain about whether devolution will lead to the break up of Britain.
  • Participation in elections to the new arenas has been a disappointment.
  • There is tension and confusion regarding the roles of the elected representatives for different tiers of government
  • That Labour’s devolution plans did not appear to be fully thought through has become evident.
  • Devolution has not resulted, as proponents had hoped, in a new form of politics, free from the tales of corruption which are so often associated with Westminster life.

So where now for Wales? Well, as someone once said, devolution is a process, not an event. So, watch this space.

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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