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Understanding devolution in Wales
Understanding devolution in Wales

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2.6 New politics

At the end of the clip in Section 2.5, reporter David Cornock mentions ‘new politics’. This was a phrase used at the dawn of devolution to describe the different ways in which things would be done in the new institutions in Scotland and Wales. Broadly, it referred to a more straight forward, open and family friendly way of working. It was set in opposition to the old-fashioned, closed and ritualistic practices of Westminster.

Activity 3 Comparing Parliaments

Compare pictures of the Welsh and UK Parliaments. What do you notice?

This is a composite of two photos comparing the Welsh and UK Parliaments. The Welsh Parliament image shows the siambr or debating room, a round room surrounded by glass. Work stations are arranged on wide curved desks, with all members facing the middle of the room. Each work station has a computer and chair. The UK Parliament image shows the House of Commons, a high-ceilinged rectangular room resembling a chapel. The central aisle separates the two areas of seating, which are wide green benches. These two seating banks face each other across the aisle.
Figure 7 Comparing Parliaments: Welsh (top image) and UK (bottom image)


A great deal was made of how transparent the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly buildings would be. Showcasing the building on their website, architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners said the Assembly:

employed the idea of openness and transparency as the driving factor in the design for the National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff. The building was conceived not to be an insular, closed edifice but a transparent envelope, looking outwards to Cardiff Bay and beyond, making visible the inner workings of the Assembly and encouraging public participation in the democratic process.

(RSHP, n.d.)

In summary:

Transfer of some political power from Westminster to Wales took place gradually over the second half of the twentieth century. An attempt to establish separate political institutions failed in 1979 but narrowly passed in 1997. The initial structures of the Welsh institutions were devised very quickly.