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Understanding devolution in Wales
Understanding devolution in Wales

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1 Interview with Roger Awan-Scully

Professor Roger Awan-Scully is Professor of Political Science at Cardiff University and Chair of the Political Studies Association. His work focuses on devolution, elections and voting.

He joins course author Valerie Livingston to discuss some major trends in Welsh voting.

Activity 1 Interview

Listen to this interview and make notes on what you think the key points are.

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Audio 1 Interview with Roger Awan-Scully
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Discussion

Key points from the interview:

  • Most data suggests Welsh voters do not feel that devolution has made a substantial difference to life in Wales, but the majority believe it to be better than the alternative of no devolution.
  • Welsh politicians are generally more trusted than their counterparts in England.
  • There is an appetite for further devolution but a lack of clarity over what powers should be devolved – likely due to ongoing confusion as to which powers are devolved now following major changes to the devolution settlement over its first two decades.
  • We can observe a link between Welsh identity and voting intention, with those who describe themselves most strongly as Welsh favouring Plaid Cymru, while those with a predominantly British identity are likely to back the Conservatives.
  • Labour in Wales have successfully straddled both British and Welsh identities – something Professor Awan-Scully attributes their long-lasting political dominance to, in part.
  • The movement of people born elsewhere in the UK into Wales has had an impact on Welsh identity as, while some of these people adopt a degree of Welsh identity, many others eschew it and avoid engagement with the devolved political institutions.
  • The creation of Welsh political institutions has not created a greater sense of Welshness per se, but it has led to different expectations of how this identity is expressed, for example, in distinct political institutions.
  • There has been an uplift in support for Welsh independence in the very early 2020s, which can be attributed to the concurrent period of instability in the UK Government from the Brexit fallout and the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • At the same time, there has been a slight increase in devo-scepticism, with the rise of political parties advocating the abolition of devolution in Wales, and the resurgence of hostility towards devolution within the Welsh Conservatives.
  • Professor Awan-Scully suggests that voters are ‘largely unimpressed’ by devolution but would like to see more powers devolved to Wales. Can you reconcile these statements?

  • This may be explained in part by another statement made in this interview, that the devolution settlement has shifted extensively over time, perhaps leaving people in Wales confused as to what the institutions can achieve. Another possible answer is alluded to when Professor Awan-Scully references the devolution of policing in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It may well be that voters in Wales feel they should have equal powers.