I am Welsh - in every respect, and proudly so. I'm also a Conservative. I want my nation to be well governed, and will support a constitutional settlement that is stable, and incorporates the devolutionary principle that the people of Wales voted for on 18th September, 1999. Today, 53 Assembly Members voted unanimously in favour of holding a referendum to establish whether the people want to move forward as the 1998 Act envisaged. Its always a bit boring when everyone agrees on an important issue, but today was a very significant milestone.
The First Minister now has 14 days to write to the Secretary of Wales conveying to him a request from Assembly Members to hold a referendum. He has 120 days to respond to this request, setting out the legal process under which this referendum will be held - or telling us why its being refused. This responsibility could well fall to a Conservative Secretary of State, because as a result of the Assembly's Coalition Government's procrastination, 120 days takes us beyond the General Election. David Cameron has stated publicly that he will not veto this referendum - the single most important statement on this issue during the last three years.
There remains discussion about the date of this referendum. I believe it should be in October 2010. It should definitely not be held on the same date as the next Assembly Election, and in my opinion, will lead to a No vote if such a stunt was tried. Supporters of a Yes vote (such as me) would have nothing to do with such a stunt. I could live with a date as near to Dydd Dewi Sant (March 1st) as possible, but it would be better in October/November. The decision has been taken. Lets get on with it.
There will be freedom for Conservatives to campaign in accordance with their beliefs. I have always been clear that I'm in favour of the devolution of all law making powers in currently devolved policy areas. I will campaign for this, though I will not want to become a part of any official Yes campaign. I suppose the reality is that if I'm elected as an MP on May 6th, I will have a significant role in the referendum. If I lose, I suspect no-one will care what I think. Whatever, today has been a hugely important day for the people of Wales. Oh how I would have liked to have been an Assembly Member today. All I can do is run through the speech I would have made in the bath tonight, and imagine that I'm speaking in the Siambr.