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Understanding devolution in Wales
Understanding devolution in Wales

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2 A separate legal jurisdiction

A legal jurisdiction is the authority given by law to a court to try cases and rule on legal matters within a particular geographic area.

Wales shares its legal jurisdiction with England. Both Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own legal systems.

Wales is the only country in the world that has a full law-making legislature operating without a corresponding legal jurisdiction.

In the early stages of devolution, when the Assembly lacked primary law-making powers, this was less of an issue. However, since 2011, it has been rising up the political agenda. In 2016, the Welsh Government Counsel General Theodore Huckle wrote:

An issue previously considered by some to be technical, abstract and unimportant is now central to the debate on how to create coherent, stable and long lasting constitutional arrangements for Wales…The existence of the Welsh legislature, the fundamental divergence in the law, the inaccessibility of that law and that devolved laws in Wales are made in Welsh and English (both having equal status in law) are reasons enough for the creation of a Welsh legal jurisdiction.

(Huckle, 2016)

Those in favour of a separate legal jurisdiction argue that Wales is further disadvantaged by its absence as Welsh policy makers cannot effectively align policy areas such as health, education and social welfare. Those opposed to it argue that full separation would cause further complexities and cost money unnecessarily.