Scots keen, Welsh less so?
On May 6, Scotland will elect its first parliament since
1707. Voters in Wales will also vote that day to establish a
new Welsh Assembly. Responsibility for agriculture in the
two countries will be transferred from Westminster to the
new bodies in Edinburgh and Cardiff. Allan Wright and
Robert Davies look at the impact that might have and
review the farming policies of the main political parties
RESULTS from the devolution votes in Scotland and Wales in Sept 1997 showed a great deal of enthusiasm north of the border.
But in Wales many opponents still claim apathy was the only winner.
Perhaps one reason is the difference in power that was on offer. The Scots had the prospect of a parliament that could introduce primary legislation and vary taxes by up to 3p in the £. Welsh voters were presented with the prospect of a Cardiff-based assembly that had no legislative powers at all.
In Scotland, where the turnout was just over 60%, the voting showed that 74.3% were in favour of establishing a Scottish Parliament and 63.5% said yes to granting tax varying powers to the Edinburgh parliament.
In Wales it was a much closer affair. The turnout was just 50.3% and, of the 1,112,117 valid votes counted, a wafer-thin majority of only 50.6% favoured devolution.
Although pro-devolutionists claim public enthusiasm for the process is increasing as the May 6 ballot approaches, that has not been confirmed by opinion polls. The role played by Labours headquarters in the acrimonious selection of Welsh Secretary Alun Michael as the partys leader in Wales, and a very public row between Rod Richards, the Conservatives Welsh leader, and the man he defeated, could yet have an impact on the election result.
Indeed, tactical voting in mid and west Wales might prevent Mr Michael, whose late decision to stand left him without a first past the post nomination, becoming one of the assemblys additional members elected by proportional representation (PR).
The Scottish Parliament, responsible for a budget of £14bn, will comprise 129 members, 73 from constituencies elected on a first past the post system. The other 56 members will be selected on a proportional basis from party lists drawn up for each of the current eight European Parliament constituencies.
Each elector will be able to cast two votes; one for a constituency representative and one for the party of their choice.
In Wales, the assembly, which will have an annual budget of £7bn, will have 60 members; 40 elected first past the post and 20 by PR.
• 60 members.
• 40 elected first past the post in existing Westminster constituencies.
• Additional 20 elected on PR from the five Euro-Parliament constituencies.
• The Assembly will not have any responsibility for making primary legislation.
• It will have no tax varying powers.
• 129 members.
• 73 elected first past the post in existing Westminster constituencies.
• Remaining 56 elected on PR using the current 8 Euro-Parliament constituencies..
• The parliament will be able to make primary legislation.
• It will have tax varying powers of up to 3%.