Measuring devolution after 15 years

It's the end of a week-long series on BBC Wales called measuring devolution.

The week began for me by standing in the centre of Bridgend with large posters of the Senedd and Westminster and asking people whether they thought education and health had been devolved.

It followed the findings of our poll which showed that fewer than half of those questioned knew that the NHS was controlled from Cardiff and not London.

After 15 years of devolution, there are clearly huge chunks of the population who are disengaged with assembly politics.

That was reflected in Bridgend where plenty of the people I stopped and questioned who still thought that hospitals and schools were controlled from Westminster.


One woman told me health should be controlled in Cardiff but she knew that it was in the hands of Westminster. I then had to break the news to her the that NHS was being controlled by politicians 20 miles down the road rather than in London.

The former government advisor on economic matters, Gerry Holtham, weighed in with a claim that people in Wales have been put off politics by the dominance of Labour and, crucially, the reluctance of Labour to speak candidly about many issues.

He called on the party to "start a political argument with itself".

Former First Minister Rhodri Morgan said that was unrealistic because the system of PR at the assembly meant that Labour was always defending a slim majority or was in coalition.

The inference there being that open inter-party discussions and disagreements may be fine in principle but in a tight system at the assembly it doesn't really work in practice.


To be fair to the assembly, there is a disillusionment about politics generally and many of the findings of the poll we commissioned would probably be reflected in a poll about any institution.

Although I don't think that is much consolation for many, including people like myself, whose job it is to tell people about Welsh politics.

There is another concern about accountability as well. After all, if you don't know which government is in charge of certain things, how can you hold them to account?

Plaid AM Elin Jones said in the party's weekly briefing that the real test of this is who local people go to see when there is a problem.

For example, they should go to see their MP if it's an issue with welfare and the local AM for health-related problems.

The reality on the ground is that it's all mixed up and it seems it'll stay that way for some time to come.