Wales politics

'Vote No' campaign launched for assembly referendum

The Welsh assembly has failed to deliver, campaigners against devolving more law-making powers have said.

A group calling for a No vote in the 3 March referendum launched its campaign on Wednesday.

Its organisers said they would not apply for official lead campaign status and would decline public funding.

That will mean the Yes For Wales campaign will not be able to get the funding either. It said it would consult with the Electoral Commission.

The No campaign was launched at Newbridge Rugby Club, in Caerphilly,

Its director Rachel Banner said True Wales would apply to be the designated as a campaign for the referendum, but would decline the £70,000 on offer to lead campaigns from the Electoral Commission.

She said: "Enough of the hard-earned money of the hard-working people of Wales has been spent on giving more power to politicians."

In response, a spokesman for Yes for Wales said: "Our priority is to engage the Welsh public in the referendum and will be discussing with the Electoral Commission the best way to do this."

Ms Banner also attacked what she called Cardiff Bay's "political class".

"But - so far - with the tools it already has, the assembly has failed to achieve what was promised in 1997," she said.

She said Wales received worse health services than England, despite Aneurin Bevan's promise of a universal and equal health care for everyone in the UK.

Boosting the assembly's law-making powers was part of a "slippery slope" towards independence, she said.

"It's time to stop treating the people of Wales like children with whom the Bay political class cannot share the secrets of its unravelling radical devolution."

Ms Banner, a teacher and Labour party member, said True Wales offered "a better, more forward-looking form of devolution".

Politicians should hand power over to people, instead of "centralising" power in Cardiff Bay and turning the assembly into a "pale copy of Westminster", she said.

The referendum will be held on 3 March.

It will be the third devolution referendum in Wales since proposals to create an assembly were heavily defeated at the first vote in 1979.

The second referendum in 1997 resulted in a narrow Yes vote which led to the opening of the assembly two years later.

At present the assembly can ask parliament to transfer primary law-making powers in devolved fields on a case-by-case basis.

The opposing Yes For Wales campaign, launched earlier this month, is backed by the leadership of Wales' four main political parties.

The Yes For Wales campaign said the assembly would be more efficient and accountable if it did not have to seek "permission" to pass laws.

Speaking for the Yes campaign, Gwyn Griffiths, a retired teacher from Caerphilly, said: "The people of Wales have the right to expect that laws only affecting Wales should be made in Wales.

"I simply cannot understand why anyone would want to keep a system which requires Wales to ask 'permission' to manage its own affairs, and denies us similar rights enjoyed by the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

"The Yes campaign has a simple, positive message which already has the support of people from all walks of life."

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