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Understanding devolution in Wales
Understanding devolution in Wales

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2.2 1979

In 1969, the Royal Commission on the Constitution under Lord Kilbrandon was established to consider options for the future of the United Kingdom amid growing support for nationalist parties. Gwynfor Evans won Plaid Cymru’s first parliamentary seat in the 1969 Carmarthen by-election, Winnie Ewing took Hamilton for the SNP in 1967. The Kilbrandon review suggested legislative and executive devolution to Scotland and Wales and advisory Regional Councils for England. This plan was rejected as too bureaucratic and ill-advised in economic terms.

Revised plans for devolution to Scotland and Wales were subsequently brought forward. In 1974, a plan for Welsh devolution which involved executive functions being devolved to a Welsh Assembly of 72 members, operating through a committee system and led by a Chief Executive was published. The plan was subject to a referendum.

Activity 1 Referendum (1979)

The referendum was held on 1 March 1979. Take a look at these campaign materials for both sides.

This is a poster headlined with 'Vote yes on March 1st' in large colourful writing, with a drawing of a daffodil beneath. Alongside this is the following text: 'On March 1 the Government is asking you to give the go-ahead to the Welsh Assembly and so bring more democracy to Wales. The Assembly plans have now been debated in Parliament since 1974. In July 1978 the WALES ACT setting up the Assembly became law and was approved by the Queen. All that remains is for the Welsh people to give the green light to this major advance in the life of Wales. On March 1 you can ensure a stronger democratic Wales within the United Kingdom and Europe by voting YES for Wales.'
Figure 1 ‘Vote yes on March 1st’
This is a poster headlined ‘Why you should VOTE NO’ in large green letters. Underneath is a list of 10 reasons, with an exclamation written beside each line as follows. Lines 1-2: ‘Your Country!’ 3-9: ‘Your Money!’ 10: ‘Your Interests!’ The list itself reads as follows: 1: By voting 'NO' you will be stopping the start of the slide down the slippery slope to the break-up of the United Kingdom. 2: Full independence is Plaid Cymru's main aim. 3: At present Government expenditure is over £167 per head higher in Wales than in England – do you want to lose this advantage. 4: The Assembly would cost £6.5 million to set up. 5: The Assembly would cost £12.5 million, and possibly more, to run. 6: The Assemblymen would be able to fix their own salaries, pensions and gratuities. 7: The Assemblymen would be able to appoint as many officers as they like. 8: The Assemblymen would need at least another 1,150 Civil Servants. 9: The Assembly would mean yet another tier of Government – more money. 10: Welsh M.P.s will no longer have the power to decide on matters of education, housing and health. Underneath is the text: ‘Keep Britain united by voting 'NO' on Thursday 1st March.’
Figure 2 ‘Why you should vote no’

How would you vote? Make your decision, then reveal the discussion below to find out the results.

This image recreates a referendum ballot, written in both English and Welsh, which reads as follows: Parliament has decided to consult the electorate in Wales on the question whether the Wales Act 1978 should be put into effect. / Mae'r Senedd wedi penderfynu ymgynghori ag etholwyr Cymru ynglyn â ddylid gweithredu Deddf Cymru 1978. DO YOU WANT THE PROVISIONS OF THE WALES ACT 1978 TO BE PUT INTO EFFECT? / A YDYCH AM I DDARPARIAETHAU DEDDF CYMRU 1978 CAEL EU GWEITHREDU? Put a cross (X) in the appropriate box. / Rhowch groes (X) yn y blwch cymwys. YES / YDWYF NO / NAC YDWYF
Figure 3 Referendum ballot


Do you want the Provisions of the Wales Act 1978 to be put into effect?

The referendum failed.