Welsh referendum: Voters give emphatic Yes on powers


Wales has said a resounding Yes in the referendum on direct law-making powers for the assembly.

When the last result was declared, all 22 counties except one - Monmouthshire - backed change. The turnout was 35.4%.

The final result saw 517,132 vote Yes, and 297,380 say No - a 63.5% to 36.5% winning margin.

The vote will give the assembly direct law-making power in 20 devolved areas, such as health and education.

First Minister Carwyn Jones told celebrating supporters in the Senedd, the assembly building in Cardiff Bay: "Today an old nation came of age."

Deputy First Minister and Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones said it marked "the beginning of a new era of Welsh devolution - the decade to deliver for Wales".

"To demand respect, you must first display self respect," he said. "Today we have done just that, and the rest of the world can now sit up and take notice of the fact that our small nation, here on the western edge of the continent of Europe, has demonstrated pride in who we are, and what we all stand for."

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams voiced her delight, but said the campaign "exposed widespread dissatisfaction with the performance of the Welsh government".

She urged the start of a "new era of devolution" in which "the tendency of the Welsh government to be the collective chip on the shoulder of Wales must end and in which the culture of blame is replaced by a culture of responsibility".

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, who arrived in Cardiff for the party's weekend conference, said the Yes vote was a turning point.

"For the first time ever, laws that affect only Wales will be made only in Wales."

"It will do away with the current restrictive and unwieldy arrangements and it will allow the Welsh Assembly the freedom to get on with the job of delivering for Wales."

Conservative Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said there had been concern over turnout and whether the result would not be clear cut. But she called it "a good day for Wales".

Nick Bourne, leader of the assembly Conservatives, said: "Assembly Members of all parties now need to get down to the job of law-making in the most efficient and effective manner to deliver for the people of Wales.

"Welsh Conservatives are committed to making the next stage of devolution a success, as we have strived to make it work over the past 12 years."

While Monmouthshire voted No, it was by only a narrow margin of 320 votes, and by 50.6% to 49.4%.

The areas which delivered the biggest Yes votes were Gwynedd, Neath Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire and Rhondda Cynon Taf, where it topped 70% in each case.

A No vote would have kept the current system where the assembly asked Parliament for powers to be transferred to Cardiff on a case-by-case basis.

'Turning point'

Roger Lewis, chairman of the Yes For Wales campaign, said he was delighted, adding: "It is clear, the people of Wales have spoken."

Rachel Banner of True Wales, which wanted a No vote, said marked a "turning point our our nation".

But in a speech in the Senedd, she said the turnout posed a question over the legitimacy of the result.

She asked: "Has it got the full-hearted consent of the Welsh people?"

She also queried whether the assembly could provide enough "high-quality scrutiny" to make good laws.

Turnout was below 30% in some areas, which was described by First Minister Carwyn Jones as "not brilliant, but then not apocalyptic, which some people predicted."

He said the low turnout was partly due to there being no official Yes or No campaigns, and he took a swipe at "abysmal" coverage "from UK media".

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan, welcoming the result, said the UK government reinforced its commitment to make the arrangements work effectively.

"Importantly, the people of Wales have had their say," said Mrs Gillan.

"The vote in favour of enhanced law-making powers will allow the national assembly for Wales and Welsh assembly government to get on with their job of delivering better public services and improving the quality of life for the people of Wales in areas for which they have responsibility."

An opinion poll for BBC Wales this week found almost half of potential voters felt they lacked enough information to make an informed decision.

A poll conducted by ICM in the days leading up to the referendum found 48% of respondents said they had not received enough information. Exactly half said that they had.

It suggests an assembly with law-making and some taxation powers remains most popular - 35% - while 18% supported a law-making assembly without taxation powers, while 17% wanted the assembly to continue as it is.

Independence was favoured by 16%, and 15% wanted the assembly abolished.

ICM interviewed 1,003 adults on 1 and 2 March.