Chapter 8

A constitution for Wales

In 1997, the people of Wales voted, in a referendum to support devolution. Two years later, the Welsh Assembly (now officially called Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament) was established. In 2011, the people of Wales voted in another referendum to increase the law-making powers of the Senedd .  During the Brexit process, the UK Government has sought to take back powers for themselves via the Internal Market Bill. This is despite those (EU) powers having been the responsibility of the Welsh Government before Brexit.

Democracy

Devolved power is temporary, and can easily be taken away. Independence would allow us to establish Welsh democracy on a permanent footing.

Our democratic institutions in Wales can be undermined because the UK doesn’t have a written constitution. The Senedd/Welsh Parliament was created by passing a law in London, and its powers can be reduced by another law in London.

The UK is one of the few nations of the world that doesn’t have its own written constitution. Instead, the UK’s “constitution” is shaped by decisions of predominantly English lawmakers and English court judgements, sometimes going back generations, even centuries.

When a nation gains its independence, one of its first collective acts is to write a constitution, setting out how that nation will be governed. It places responsibilities and limits upon the government. It confers permanent, inalienable rights upon the citizens of that nation. Many modern democracies use their constitutions to guarantee universal human rights. They protect the individual, and guarantee citizens their freedom of speech and thought, freedom of assembly, religious freedoms, their right to privacy and a family life.

Diversity and Inclusion

A new constitution would be an opportunity to do justice to those who’ve had to fight long, bitter struggles for rights the majority of us take for granted. Welsh people of colour, women, disabled people, LGBTQ+ and others continue to make a cherished and vital contribution to public life and our communities that has long been ignored and taken for granted.

Wales must use the opportunity of drafting a new constitution to acknowledge our own complicity in historic abuses and work to reject the institutional and systemic discrimination which has left some of our most vulnerable and marginalised people living in fear.

A new constitution must guarantee fair treatment within the criminal justice system, as Wales seeks to address the abuse of police and investigatory powers, as well as our scandalously high imprisonment rate (particularly amongst people of colour) under UK rule.

Basic Rights

Independence means a clean slate, and an opportunity to create and shape a new Wales, working to rules we choose to set ourselves. Many nations have adopted constitutions that go beyond guaranteeing basic liberal rights. A Welsh constitution could, for example, guarantee a right to free healthcare and education. Citizens could have the right to a decent home, placing a responsibility on all future governments to eliminate homelessness.

The constitution of Wales could also take its lead from that of Finland, which protects its citizens from discrimination on the basis of language, by placing a permanent legal duty on future governments to protect and foster the Welsh language.

The process of drafting a Welsh Constitution would begin as soon as possible following a successful independence referendum, taking place during the transition period of negotiation between the Welsh and UK governments. There are a number of ways Wales could do it: we could either leave it to the Senedd/Welsh Parliament, form  an expert constitutional convention specifically set up to write a constitution, or even “crowd-source” a constitution by opening the process up to the public.

Once agreed, constitutions tend to be difficult to change. In some nations, the constitution can only be changed by referendum. Other nations require a supermajority vote in parliament – usually two thirds of the members (in both houses, where applicable). The precise process for amending the Welsh constitution would have to be decided while the constitution is being drafted. But the fundamental importance is that a written constitution would place Welsh democracy on a permanent footing. The rights of all peoples and communities of Wales would be guaranteed, and only the Welsh people themselves would be able to make changes to our own constitutional rights.

 

Previous Chapter

 

Next Chapter

What about the monarchy?   Wales, the world & Brexit