Differing views on devolution? A tale of two counties ten years on
They really couldn’t be more different. Merthyr and Monmouthshire. Two counties in south-east Wales, but with a very different make-up - socially, geographically and politically. Both counties will shortly be visited by the All Wales Convention, the organisation established to gauge people’s opinions on whether the National Assembly for Wales should be granted more law-making powers.
Ten years ago, in the 1997 referendum, Merthyr voted in favour of devolution (58.2 per cent), whereas Monmouthshire returned the highest no vote in Wales (67.9 per cent). Now, a decade of devolution later, the challenge for the All Wales Convention will be to assess how the land lies on the question of more devolved powers for the National Assembly.
On Wednesday May 13th from 10am-5pm a family day and roadshow will take place in Cwm Golau Integrated Children’s Centre, Pentrebach, Merthyr, where youngsters will be able to enjoy free soft play activities and parents will be able to take advantage of a special pampering area staffed by students from Merthyr College, and free crèche for children. The following day, on Thursday May 14th from 6.30-8.30pm the All Wales Convention will hold a Question Time event at Monmouth Leisure Centre. All are welcome to attend these free public events.
Crystallising public opinion the length and breadth of Wales in the current public consultation will not be an easy task. The chair of the All Wales Convention, Sir Emyr Jones Parry, and his Executive Committee will have their work cut out in judging the mood of the people of Wales correctly. Sir Emyr is a career diplomat, having served as UK Permanent Representative on the North Atlantic Council, followed by a four-year posting as UK Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, so it bodes well. But even his diplomatic skills will surely be challenged at times and the task should not be underestimated.
Sir Emyr said:
"I’m thoroughly enjoying the experience of hearing the views and opinions of people all over Wales. It’s what I set out to do and I’ve been greatly encouraged by the welcome my team and I have received. But there’s much more to do of course. Politics is relevant to each and every one of us, whether we like it or not. It affects they way we go about our daily lives and I want people to realise that what they say will influence what happens in Wales.
I’m looking forward to the All Wales Convention visiting Merthyr and Monmouth and, given the two counties’ past devolution attitudes, I expect the events to be very different. A decade on, it will be very interesting to find out what local residents now think about devolution and whether it’s been a good or bad thing for them."
Councillor Jeff Edwards, Leader of Merthyr Tydfil Borough Council, said:
"Devolution has improved communication with Government and has resulted in the delivery of better services for local people."
Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, Councillor Peter Fox, commented:
"I am pleased that the citizens of Monmouth will have an opportunity to engage on this very important topic. I would encourage people to go along and listen to the debate and to have their say."