A MAJOR constitutional commission in Wales has been hailed for “validating” independence by the YesCymru campaign group.

The cross-party Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales unanimously concluded that independence was a viable option for the country and offered the potential for “long term positive change”.

Iestyn ap Rhobert, a founding member of YesCymru, said the report gives grassroots campaigners a “new set of tools” with which to convince people of the benefits of independence.

However, he insisted the Labour government in Wales must drive forward the case for entrenched devolution to prevent the country going back to “square one” where it is governed entirely from Westminster.

The commission warned that if urgent action is not taken to devolve powers over the likes of policing and justice to Wales, and protections are not put in place to shield Wales’ powers from abuse by the UK Government, then Welsh devolution will be at risk of total collapse.

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Ap Rhobert (below) told The National: “We always knew the things they were going to talk about, but when it comes to independence, we’re just glad someone can validate it.

“We don’t need internal validation, but it externally validates it for people who dismissed it outright.

“But crucially, it also says if devolution is not strengthened, Wales will not have devolution anymore.

“So the most important thing for me in this report is the warning it gives. If we lose devolution, if we lose the Parliament, we are back to square one, we’ll just be governed from England again.

“The majority of Welsh people do not want to see that happen.”

The National:

The commission – which was established two years ago under the co-operation agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh government -  included representation from all major political parties in Wales who agreed unanimously to the recommendations of the final report.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said it is an “important moment” in the constitutional journey of Wales and the report deserves “serious” consideration.

Professor Laura McAllister, co-chair of the commission, told BBC Wales there has been an “attrition of devolution” that has mostly “come from actions of UK Governments”.

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The report calls for the devolution of justice, policing and rail infrastructure to Wales, which it says would “improve accountability and service delivery”.

It additionally calls for “major changes to the way Wales is funded” to ensure devolution can “maximise value for money for the people of Wales” and finds that legislated protections for intergovernmental relations are needed to “deliver efficiently in the public interest.” 

The report has been described as “groundbreaking”, but recommendations around devolving more powers to Wales have been made by previous commissions and have not materialised.

The Richard Commission in 2004 recommended the National Assembly should have powers to legislate in certain areas and suggested changing the electoral system to the single-transferable vote.

Meanwhile, the Holtham Commission in 2010 concluded the Barnett Formula had only survived for reasons of political and administrative convenience.

It said the Assembly government should pursue the introduction of a needs-based formula for determining the Welsh block grant and acquire limited powers to vary income tax rates and borrow, none of which has happened.

Ap Rhobert said: “This report gives a clear warning that if you don’t change, you [Wales] will lose everything.

“Since 1999, there’s been two reports into improving devolution and expanding it. These commissions have said policing should be devolved to Wales and this could have been done under the Blair/Brown government, so it’s not just the Tories undermining devolution it’s also the Labour party in Westminster.

“What I’m afraid of is there could be another 10 to 15 years of us making all the right noises, but if you don’t have that change, there will be another commission that will say Wales is not ready for independence because it needs policing and courts and rail devolved to it.

“I’m afraid we are going round in circles and the Labour party has been driving that.

“The Welsh Labour party have to drive this forward but they are so afraid of causing division in the party.”

In its interim report in December 2022, the commission found significant problems with the way Wales is governed within the Union and that the ‘status quo’ was not a viable or secure foundation for stability and prosperity for Wales.

It set out three alternative constitutional routes for Wales of independence, a federal system and enhancing devolution, and the final report concluded all three are viable for the long term.