Presiding Officer outlines constitutional vision to Assembly Members in Chamber address

Published 01/10/2014   |   Last Updated 09/06/2015

The National Assembly for Wales's Presiding Officer, Dame Rosemary Butler AM, has outlined her constitutional vision for Wales to Assembly Members in the Senedd Chamber.

The Presiding Officer responded directly to an Assembly debate which looked at how Wales's law-making body could emulate the high turnout in the Scottish referendum and increase voter participation in Wales.

Dame Rosemary used the opportunity to call for Westminster to ensure that the voice of Wales is heard loud and clear when looking at the future constitutional make-up of the UK.

She urged them to place the need to strengthen the Assembly's ability to scrutinise legislation and hold the Welsh Government account at the centre of those discussions.

Central to her vision are three key themes:

  • To make it easier for everyone to understand the powers that the Assembly has by moving to a reserved powers model like Scotland;
  • Sovereignty of the Assembly so that Westminster should not be able to decide the future of the Assembly or to control decisions on matters such as the Assembly's name and electoral arrangements; and
  • Increase the number of AMs to reflect the Assembly's enhanced responsibility and potential future responsibilities;


"The Scottish referendum sparked a democratic revival north of the border, and an unprecedented level of public engagement," the Presiding Officer said.

"So what do we need to do in Wales to make voting more meaningful for our people and communities? The reaction to events in Scotland and the passage of the Wales Bill have created a momentum for us to achieve some essential changes which will provide a sustainable foundation for the institution, as a fully fledged legislature, to deliver for the people of Wales.

"Once we have enhanced powers which are clear and understandable people will want to engage more and will want their voice to be heard, through their contributions to our work here at the Assembly and through voter participation at election time."

The Presiding Officer added that constitutional change alone wouldn't be enough to ensure a "healthy democracy"

"To do that, we must develop a dynamic relationship with the people we represent," said Dame Rosemary.

"The desire is not a new one for me or for the Commission. Throughout this Assembly, a key priority for the Commission has been to encourage wider democratic engagement. We will continue to seek new and innovative ways to do this."

Dame Rosemary has placed engagement with young people at the centre of that strategy.

"Going forward, and in the wake of the Scottish referendum, as part of our youth engagement work, we will be exploring with young people in Wales, through a national conversation, the question of whether the voting age should be lowered to 16," she said.

"I believe it's a myth that young people aren't interested in politics. They are. We just need to make sure that we're listening and acting on the conversations we have with them."