Devolution in Wales

The referendum on Welsh devolution in 1997 was a close-run thing. The majority was only 50.5–49.5 on a low turnout of around 50%, so only a quarter of the Welsh electorate actually voted in favour of devolution. It was therefore no surprise that considerably fewer powers were devolved to Wales than to Scotland.

Assembly Members (AMs) are elected by the Additional Member System. Their role is to represent the Welsh people, to make laws on the areas devolved to Wales, and to hold the Welsh government to account. However, with only 60 members the Assembly is much smaller than its Scottish counterpart. The Welsh government was originally located within the Assembly but the two were formally separated in 2006. The government is headed by a first minister, a post held by Carwyn Jones, leader of a minority Labour administration, from 2009. -2018 followed by Mark Drakeford

Unlike in Scotland, police and justice are not devolved areas and the Welsh Assembly has not gained powers over income tax and borrowing. Since the 2011 referendum the Assembly has been able to pass laws in all 20 devolved areas, without regard to the views of the UK government.

The Government of Wales Act 1998 set up an elected Welsh National Assembly, and a Welsh Executive to be drawn from the largest party in the assembly and headed by a first minister. The assembly had no powers to make or pass laws and the country was given no financial control. In other words, devolution to Wales in 1998 was purely administrative. The Welsh government now runs a number of services, but could not pass laws relating to those services. It did, however, have the power to decide how to allocate the funds it receives from central government between various services.

The main areas of government devolved to Wales included:

  • Health

  • Education

  • Local authority services

  • Public transport

  • Agriculture

Without its own means of raising fnance, the Welsh government relies on an annual grant from the UK government.