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Welsh democracy at risk unless urgent changes are made, says constitutional commission

25 January 2024

Two people sitting at a table
Professor Laura McAllister of Cardiff University and Dr Rowan Williams

Urgent change is needed to protect Welsh devolution from collapse, a constitutional commission has concluded.

Co-chaired by Professor Laura McAllister of Cardiff University and Dr Rowan Williams, The Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales was set up in 2021 to look at how Wales is governed and options for change.

In its interim report, published in December 2022, the commission found significant problems with the way Wales is governed within the Union and that the ‘status quo’ is not a viable or secure foundation for stability and prosperity for Wales. It set out three alternative constitutional routes for Wales. These were independence, a federal system and enhancing devolution.

The commission’s final report has concluded that all three options are viable for the long term and also argues that some urgent changes are needed to protect the status quo. These include the devolution of justice, policing and rail infrastructure to improve accountability and service delivery, as well as major changes to the way Wales is funded to ensure devolution can maximise value for money for the people of Wales.

The report also finds legislated protections for inter-governmental relations are needed to ensure that each level of government works together, but more importantly, deliver efficiently in the public interest.

Commenting on the report, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “This is an important moment in the debate around our constitutional journey and we will give careful consideration to the report’s recommendations.”

Speaking about the findings and timing of the commission’s final report, Co-Chair Professor Laura McAllister, of the University’s Wales Governance Centre, said: “Almost a quarter of a century has passed since powers were first devolved to Wales and this was the right time to have this national conversation with the people of Wales about the next steps in our constitutional journey. Many citizens we have spoken to were not even born at the point that devolution began, while many others have seen changes to how Wales is run in the last 25 years and have opinions on what can be done better or differently.

“Through our work, it became clear that the status quo is not sustainable and the needs of the people of Wales are not being met. If Welsh devolution, even as it stands, is to be protected, these changes must take place urgently. We can then look further ahead at these 3 possible routes for Wales’ future, each of which clearly have both challenges and opportunities.

“It’s vital that this report acts as an impetus for change for the people of Wales in the future and we want the conversation to continue. We’ve kickstarted what we hope will be an even bigger, wider dialogue to involve people in future decision making.”

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