Welsh assembly referendum: Decision time nears


On 3 March voters will be asked to decide whether the Welsh assembly should have more law-making power. Daniel Davies spoke to two undecided members of the BBC's People's Assembly, a group of 60 electors representing a variety of opinions from across Wales.

Peter Huge

The last time Wales was asked to vote on devolution Peter Huge was undecided.

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Peter Huge thinks the referendum has come at a bad time

Fourteen years later the retired police sergeant is again struggling to make up his mind.

Mr Huge, 47, a father-of-three from New Quay, Ceredigion, blames a "total lack of information" from the opposing campaigns.

"I think it's such an important decision, the referendum and law-making powers deserves to have intelligent people locking horns on this and it's just not happening," he said.

"I feel it's very one-sided towards the Yes campaign at the moment."

He said the length of time it currently takes to draw down powers and get legislation passed in Cardiff Bay is "ridiculous" - an opinion that might encourage Yes campaigners.

But he is worried a Yes vote could be a step towards Welsh independence and he is not convinced Wales could flourish on its own outside the UK.

"If we say 'No we don't want these law-making powers' I feel we are sending a message to Westminster that the Welsh people are totally apathetic and they are not bothered about their country.

"But I feel that if we vote Yes are we then moving one step further down the road (towards independence)?"

He added: "I don't feel that we are represented that well in Westminster so I would lean towards a Yes vote, but I am not that convinced yet because I don't think we could stand alone as a country."

The economy is a more important issue than law-making powers, he said. Politicians should deal with the banks and council chief executives' pay - it recently emerged that four Welsh local authority bosses earned more than £148,000 year

"I don't have a lot of faith in the system, I must be honest.

"We are fed-up of being told by the politicians, both in the assembly and especially Westminster, what we should be doing."

"This referendum has come at completely the wrong time."

Like Peter Huge, Lynette Spragg did not vote in the 1997 referendum.

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Lynette Spragg is keeping an open mind until polling day

Not because she was undecided, but because the 25-year-old mother-of-one was too young.

This time around she is determined to vote, but wants to keep an open mind for as long as possible so she can hear all the arguments.

"It's important to use your vote and I don't want to decide one way or the other until the day," she said.

"There's a lot of run-up and I think that's when most of the campaigning will be done.

"I don't want to decide until I am in front of the paper and have to tick a box."

The university administrator of Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, is on maternity leave with her first baby. She has dealt with AMs and MPs as part of a campaign to save a midwifery-led maternity unit at Llandough hospital.

But she is worried voters will use 3 March to deliver a verdict on the performance of their AMs and the Welsh Assembly Government instead of the question on the ballot paper.

"They (voters) will see it as the AMs' that we have need more powers. They will not see it as Wales and the assembly specifically having the power."

So far, nothing has come through her letter box from the campaigns vying for voters' support.

And she blamed the assembly itself for not providing enough information about what is at stake.

"I think there's huge confusion over the National Assembly and the Welsh Assembly Government," she said.

"I think there needs to be a bigger campaign for people to understand they are different institutions effectively.

"People need to be aware of that because I was not aware of that until recently."