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Pulling the trigger?

Betsan Powys | 16:13 UK time, Monday, 4 January 2010

Back in November of last year the Institute of Welsh Affairs considered a future "Life under the Tories."

I chaired the event and as per usual, spent much of the time scribbling notes in the margins of the conference timetable. Some seem fascinating at the time but are indecipherable when I sit down later and try to read them. Others are simply jotted, almost in passing but turn out to be rather significant weeks later when I re-read them.

So how about this: Sir Emyr Jones Parry sketched a possible scenario - sketched let me assure you, not advocated - a scenario whereby a vote would be held in the Assembly in January 2010 that made clear the intention to hold a referendum on or before May 2011. It wouldn't trigger the constitutional, legal process of holding a referendum but politically it would lay down a marker. It would be a public statement of intent. The All Wales Convention could no longer, after all, be the government's "alibi".

Wouldn't that make more sense, he asked, than actually triggering the process in the dying days of the UK government? Wasn't there more logic and political mileage in laying down your marker, then triggering the process proper once the General Election has been held and a new government, of whatever colour, is in place in Westminster with a mandate to govern for years to come?

I tried the theory out on a Plaid source before Christmas. Why wouldn't you trigger the process in January, came the response? Why not get the process started before the electioneering proper starts? The time for markers and statements of intent is long gone.

So will there be a vote in the Assembly before the end of this month that triggers the process that leads, eventually, to a referendum? It might be quiet in Cardiff Bay but the voices I can hear are insistently whispering that yes, there will be.

Let's hope other voices join in the whispering over the next few days.


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