Monday, 30 July 2012

Academics reject another Welsh referendum.

The Western Mule reports that two leading academics have claimed a further devolution referendum on whether the National Assembly should have the power to vary taxes would risk damaging public confidence in the institution.I have copied  some of it here in blue.

Professor Richard Wyn Jones, director of the Wales Governance Centre at
Cardiff University, and Professor Roger Scully, his counterpart at the Institute of Welsh Politics at Aberystwyth University, believe the Silk Commission – currently examining the case for tax varying powers – will recommend that such a referendum should be held.

But in an article for the
Institute of Welsh Affairs’ journal Agenda, the two professors argue that the case for holding one is weak.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has made clear his view that any move to give the Assembly the power to vary income tax should only take place after a Yes vote in a referendum.

But in their article the two academics say the experience of last year’s referendum on lawmaking powers for the Assembly should act as a brake on organising another one.

They state
: “As the issue ostensibly at stake... was so narrow and technical – a choice between two systems of primary lawmaking – the efforts of campaigners and commentators to explain the choice failed to cut through to most people, who remained disengaged and apathetic. This alone does much to explain why the turnout was so low”.
Looking to the possibility of a further vote on tax-varying powers, Profs Jones and Scully write: 

We can already predict with a very high degree of confidence that any such referendum will witness very low levels of public interest; a lack of vibrant public debate; pitifully lacklustre campaigns; and low voter turnout.
It will, in short, almost certainly be a deeply inadequate referendum that will be far more likely to damage public confidence in devolution and the political process than to enhance it.”
The academics go on to state that all three arguments that have been mooted in favour of another referendum – summarised as precedent, principle and popular expectation – are flawed.

Precedent in that Tax varying powers were part of the Scottish 1997 referendum

Jones and Scully point out that introduced by the Scotland Act 2012 without a referendum represent a far more fundamental shift in responsibility over tax.

Principal in that change of this nature should be given clear approval by the electorate the reports authors point to recommendation made by a House of Lords committee in 2010 that referendums are most appropriately used to decide “fundamental constitutional issues” like the abolition of the monarchy, independence for part of the state and the abolition of one of the Houses of Parliament

Popular expectation in that the electorate would prefer a referendum the professors point to research carried out in April this year which showed that slightly more people in Wales were content to allow politicians to make decisions about the transfer of income tax varying powers to the Assembly than wanted a referendum.

I must admit I agree with their arguments .

If the UK had a tradition of Switzerland and the States if the USA which have a tradition of referendums especially if they were linked to other elections then it would be part of the process particularly   if we were to have regular elections where 1/3 of of the seats were contested  to include A tax varying referendum then this would probably insure participation..

Referendums tend to be called by Politicians if they think they can win it just as likely that it is rejected.

But lets be honest though of us interested in the finite details are small  as the authors Jones and Scully  argue.

“Having a taxation referendum would mean spending several million pounds to conduct an event whose most likely main accomplishment would be to make the 35.6% turnout achieved in March 2011 appear relatively high.
“And given the lack of years of preceding public debate, we cannot even expect the eccentric minority who would vote to do so on the basis of a considered view as to whether or not the National Assembly should have powers in the area of taxation.
I'm not sure that I like be called an eccentric minority but I take their point. 

Tax varying powers should depend on the various party's manifesto we elect our politicians to do a job not pas the buck.


maen_tramgwydd said...

"Death by a thousand referendums".. as I told Silk.. to his face.

maen_tramgwydd said...

I'm totally sick of the Olympics..haven't watched any of it. Noticed that the BBC have 24 High Definition Olympic channels on Sky, and BBC 1 is broadcasting it non-stop. Overkill.

You're completely right about the Britishness agenda.

Noticed on Newsnet Scotland that there seems to be a pro-Indy breakaway Labour faction in Scotland.

See also: