Help shape our Constitutional Convention

IWA Director Lee Waters invites you to help shape the design of the Crowd Sourced Constitutional Convention

On January 26th we are launching a Crowd Sourced Constitutional Convention on the future of Wales, and the UK

Just as we are ‘crowd sourcing’ the funding to try and help us hold this innovative experiment in deliberative democracy, we are also ‘crowd sourcing’ the design of the debate.  Over the coming days we will be posting the working drafts of our plans for each of the stages of the eight-week project for you to shape.

Our intention over the two months of the project is to shadow the discussion driving the debate in Scotland and England, to ensure that Wales is not left out. We’ll take the main themes of the Smith Commission report – powers over the economy and Welfare State – and the theme of the UK Government’s Cabinet committee under William Hague on devolution to England and the rest of the UK.

We have three objectives:  to ensure that Wales is not left out of the debate about the future of the UK; to ensure that the debate reaches beyond the political elites; and to try and discern a consensus which can influence the formation of the party manifestos for the General Election and next year’s Assembly election.

We are working with a specialist digital democracy company called Delib to design a website to host the Constitutional Convention. Learning from our pilot project we know that a debate on a website is not enough, there needs to be parallel debates and activities. The debate will not be confined to the site but will also be facilitated by our partners: the UK Changing Union project,  NUS Wales, Wales TUC, Federation of Small Businesses Cymru, Electoral Reform Society Cymru, Community Housing Cymru and Media Wales.

And of course we’ll be heavily using social media – incidentally, what should our hashtag be: #IWAConvention or #WeThePeople ?

We’re breaking down the eight weeks into five stages to cover the following themes:

  1. What is the UK for? If there’s to be a Union what should it do?
  2.  How do we create a more prosperous Wales? (The economy)
  3. How do we make Wales a fairer country? (The Welfare State)
  4. What is the future of the UK?
  5. What is Wales for?

The first and final stage will last a week each, while the other stages will span a two week period.  Each stage will offer information on the context of the debate and pose open questions, as well as questions which offer binary choices so that we can measure people’s reactions to the debate.

We have brought together small expert groups to help us generate the questions and now we want to broaden the input to give anyone the chance to shape the content*.  We’ll also be adjusting our plans as the project progresses in the light of experience.  We fully expect to make mistakes and for the project to be imperfect, but we hope it will open up discussion and engage people in a debate about the future direction of our country.

The initial phase aims to go back to first principles and ask what the purpose of an United Kingdom is.  Much of the debate since the Scottish referendum has been about what further powers should be devolved, rather than asking what the overall objective is. If there is to be a Union (and there are people who clearly feel there shouldn’t be) what is its purpose?

Our plans for our first phase are perhaps the least well developed (we’re organising this complex project at break-neck speed with a tiny budget and very little capacity), so we’d like your input.

PHASE 1- What is the UK for?

1 What is the UK for? If there’s to be a Union what should it do?

Key themes*:

-Foreign Policy/ Defence & Security

– Economy / Redistribution

– Broadcasting

– Shared identity and history

– Immigration

 *We will offer some context for each of these with a mix of approaches including podcasts, fact sheets and opinion pieces on Click on Wales

2 What policy areas are best carried out at a UK level?

3 What policy areas are best carried out at a Welsh level?

In the final section of this phase we will reflect back some of the issues which have emerged and pose them as binary questions so that we can measure opinion. For example, is a single broadcasting regime essential for the future of the UK?

We’d value your input to try and shape this attempt at engaging the public in a debate about our country’s future.  Also if you are able to make a financial contribution to help us reach the potential of this initiative please donate here.

[* The expert group we consulted on the design of the first and fourth stage included Prof Laura McAllister, Prof Richard Wyn Jones,  Steve Brooks,  Emyr Lewis, Lee Waters, Jess Blair, Paul Silk, David Stevens, and Geraint Talfan Davies]

27 thoughts on “Help shape our Constitutional Convention

  1. ‘We’re organising this complex project at break-neck speed with a tiny budget and very little capacity…’ With all due respect, Lee, are you not biting off more than you can chew? The ‘crowd’ you are attempting to ‘source’ is numbered in the few hundreds (some of them from Cardigan! and some are not digitally engaged) and your potential ‘reach’ is to an ‘audience’ that is minimally engaged, focused on trying to survive financially or waiting for the 6 Nations to kick off or worried that Bony going to Man C will ruin Swansea’s season. In this election year, the political parties are better placed to reach people on the issues you list albeit, I accept, with their own agenda.
    I admire and applaud your ambition for the IWA in this but, with limited resources, would it not be more appropriate to focus on single ‘campaign’ issues? The articles that seem to stir up most comments on this site are ‘economic’ and that is where most people’s interest outside the ‘political bubble’ is focused – just saying.

  2. @ Chris Jones

    The IWA is not a campaigning organisation. It is also the case that political circumstances dictate that we up our game and not just talk about ambition but seek to realise it as best we can. This period of history is not one where a “do the little things” philosophy is either appropriate or adequate.

  3. Tend to agree with Chris here – apart from the bit about political parties: they are indeed better placed but are unlikely to encourage the discussion we need.

    In fairness to the Institute, the rush is due to the parties making constitutional policy on the hoof. It would indeed be highly desirable if we all took the time to think and talk through the long term consequences. It would have been nicer still if someone had done that in 1997.

  4. Chris, I plead guilty on the ambition charge. We could have tried to wait for a properly funded fully designed project, or we could seize the moment and try and stimulate some debate whilst there is a state of flux. In terms of bread and butter issues I hope you’ll see this week that our approach is going to be on relating issues people care about to the broader constitutional debate. I’d be interested in your thoughts on tomorrow’s post on the economy strand

  5. “If there’s to be a Union what should it do?”

    Ah there it is… nationalist bias in the very first question. If there’s to be a union??? There is a Union! That it is the status quo and surveys have consistenly indicated that less than 10% of people in Wales want to change that. The statement smacks of denial of the result in Scotland and also the will of the majority in Wales. You need to make this completely impartial… not like some questionnaire put together by a Plaid Cymru university society

    I’d suggest you re-phrase the question to simply ‘What should the union do in the future?’ rather than attempt to influence the contributors perception of the strength of the union by stealth and give away your own desires as an organisation.

  6. This is not a question of nationalist bias but a sound analysis of current political developments. It is not clear for how long the Union including Scotland is likely to hold. This is based on developments since the result of the referendum. It has been stated that the people of Scotland voted to retain their place within the Union and the result clearly confirms that. What is clear from subsequent events however is that the momentum is very firmly with the Yes camp and the SNP. We will have a clearer idea after the General Election in May but it is not an unreasonable conclusion to say that the Union as we have known it is now dead (see Carwyn Jones) and that there is a need to construct a new Union in its place. That is not a nationalist position. If I read you correctly, you would prefer it if we adopted your view (or should that be bias) that the discussion takes place in a business as usual context. I think you have to take a very selective view of events to believe that is the climate we are operating in. My own motivation for involvement in this and other projects is a belief in advancing democracy as a means of governing our society. When I last looked, nationalism does not have a monopoly on this concept.

  7. @RBJ Thank you for reminding me of the saying by St.David, our patron saint, ‘in doing the little things’. I still prefer that the ‘little things’ be done right than ‘come a cropper’ on the large thing.
    Nevertheless, I will attempt to contribute my tuppence worth to what I hope may prove to be a ‘defining’ year in Welsh public life.

  8. I’m going to start the new year by agreeing with JWR, political parties are better placed to engage the public but are unlikely to encourage the discussion we need. There, I’ve said it.

  9. In my 70 years of life and mixed with probably thousands of people I have heard,with one exception (An actor employed by S4C) anyone getting ‘het up’ about constitutional matters. There is now a whole class of self obsessed people who seem to be determined to upset our current status within the UK and to what ends I wonder??. It is a given that all people wish for good governance and a sound economy to fund public services,however can anyone tell me what the 1999 changes have done to improve ANY thing in Wales.?.Whatever comes out the changes the lives of individual people/communities will not be improved as the welsh political classes in charge,i.e nationalist/socialists are determined to keep to their agenda,rather than devolution to individual people to determine their life. We have the most useless media this side of Iran and North Korea and in particular BBC Wales/S4C who are full of the ‘usual suspects’ and keeping on side with their their political masters down the Bay of Dreams!!

  10. I’m sure that your tuppence worth will prove to be more valuable in practice. There are times when getting the little things right is a good policy. But these are not the times we live in. One apposite quote is from the English Bard:

    There is a tide in the affairs of men,
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
    On such a full sea are we now afloat,
    And we must take the current when it serves,
    Or lose our ventures.

  11. S.M. Bytts: With due respect, you’ve got the meaning of “If there is to be a Union…” upside down. It assumes the continuation of the Union as a premise for the convention, rather than questioning it.

  12. Find myself agreeing with everyone for a change. SeaMor’s conclusions certainly follows from his premises. If the people of these islands have a settled will, let’s accept it and get on with addressing concrete problems that concern them. And his premise is right for Wales. There is a settled will here. We are too poor and too chicken to leave the Union whatever the Scots do. Wales is not going to take the lead in any constitutional developments so, yes, we would be better focusing on our educational system etc, If politicians then find they need some power to carry through a policy which has popular support they can ask for it at the time and people will understand why they want it. For Scotland though, SeaMor is off the pace. The Scots now want more than the Union or England can give them. There’ll be a mass of SNP MPs after the next election causing trouble. This is like Ireland in 1900. Scotland will surely go. But we can’t alter that and it won’t change much in Wales. So why worry about it?

  13. @Emyr Lewis
    needlessly questioning the future of something – as an irrelevant introduction to a question – seems an awfully funny way to indicate that you are assuming the continuation of it.

    Perhaps my academic credentials are not on a par with yours sir, but I’ve a large book within arms reach of me on the subject of Research Methodology which, I’m sure would not support that wording. I think somebody at the IWA is getting carried away and doe eyed at the idea of an independent republic of Cymru here.

  14. The wording ‘If there’s to be a Union what should it do?’ was intended to signal that the future of the UK cannot be taken for granted (and to anticipate a raft of comments saying ‘I don’t want a UK’. However, if we are to have a UK wide tier what should its function be. This seems to me to be a critical question missing from the debate. Rather than jumping straight to the Smith Commission report and demanding parity, we need to go back to first principles and ask what it is we’re trying to achieve. Hence, ‘If there’s to be a Union what should it do?

  15. What shape should it be? May I suggest pear-shaped?

    Wales has 3 easily discernable governments – one in Brussels with a large number of reserved competences, one in London that keeps cutting bits of itself off and giving them away, and a toy one in Cardiff. You seem to have ignored the one with the most clout – so I’m out!

  16. There is something disingenuous about attacking an argument that has not been put. A considered debate about the future of democracy in our country and the nature of the state within which four nations coexist is portrayed as being a partisan campaign for an independent republic and the participants in the debate as fanatical zealots. There is no purpose to such a tactic other than to attempt to discredit what is a perfectly reasonable exercise in a democratic society.

    Yesterday I attended an event to commemorate those who died in France because of their commitment to freedom of expression. How sad to see that freedom being abused on this website which seeks to respect all points of view, If we are to have an intelligent debate about the important topics outlined above, then we can start by confronting those who deliberately misrepresent the arguments of those participating in the debate.

    So at the risk of being censored for asking awkward questions, who is advocating an independent republic of Cymru?

  17. “Going back to first principles”. Indeed, Lee, and congratulations to you and the IWA for having the intellectual ambition and mettle to do that.

    The IWA is a THINK tank, and if it weren’t approaching the question of the future constitution of the UK in an intellectually rigorous and open-minded way, I’d want nothing to do with it (and I would cancel my membership). Fortunately it is, and I will contribute as best I can.

    Let us not pretend that the haste is anything but regrettable, but Lee is right, Whitehall wants to charge into this (having made a political calculation that this was the best way to nip the SNP surge in the bud), and the only alternative to hasty engagement is silence. No self-respecting political think tank in Wales could contemplate such self-censorship, and whilst I don’t expect this to be pretty or perfect, it is essential a process is gone through.

  18. I think that there’s a different place to start that’s halfway between Lee’s question and the work being done under the ‘Wales We Want’ banner. Constitutions, Unions and other structures should be designed for a purpose, so that form follows function. A deep, meaningful and evidence-based conversation about cross-generational values that takes full account of the radical changes that are coming Wales’ (and everyone else’s) way feels to me to be a better place to start. On the back of rigorous discussion of the scenarios that we’re likely to be living and working in – older population, lower pensions, low carbon, no coal, less meat production etc – a conversation about what structures are needed to serve that outcome has more purpose. Without it, it feels like cart before horse, again. As for ‘doing the little things’, as a resident of St.Davids, my experience is that we need to do what it takes, and that means making radical change and small steps happen at the same time.

  19. @ Andy Middleton

    You make very good points about methodology. Some of the best strategy work I’ve seen and been involved in started with ‘scenario building’ and, as you say, then moved on to strategy making in the light of those scenarios. Furthermore, the work I was involved in was based on collective scenario building with contributions from all parts of the organisation, rather than scenarios based on so-called expert testimony.

    Given the time constraints faced by the IWA for this project, I fear that is a step too far this time. Regrettable, but one for the future perhaps… since only the most naïve of us would suggest that the current process is going to ‘settle’ the constitutional question for a generation. We will be back here many times over the next 20 years I’d suggest.

  20. In a truly democratic Britain Wales should have control over its affairs like Scotland has. Labour made a huge cynical mistake in 1997/99 by giving Wales a highly insulting toothless Assembly with a patronising “first secretary” where Scotland & NI had first ministers & powerful executives. The Assembly initially established (or we we led to believe) to benefit Wales, an element of home rule so to speak in a “Welsh solutions to Welsh problems” but materialized as a body with less powers than a parish council which meant Wales for 12yrs (1999/2011) the frustrated public watched as Scotland & NI progressed whilst we waited for our ineffective Welsh Labour led government in Cardiff bay jumped to command awaiting for Westminster to green-light to okay it’s would be Senedd legislation until 2008 when again cynically New Labour created the highly inefficient & cumbersome LCO system (Legislative competence order) which meant Senedd legislation in some cases took two years bouncing two & fro between the Senedd, Welsh secretary and both houses at Westminster, four layers of government in which if one out of the three Westminster layers disagreed had the power to veto Senedd policy until 2011 when there was thankfully a winning legislative power referendum when Wales turned a corner, but still we cannot levy taxes or control most aspects of daily life without Westminster’s say so.

    We cannot continually have powers debates, constant unnecessary referendums which results in public apathy inturn cements us further into an unequal union of nation states where one constituent part (Wales) never prospers, goes around in circles forever whilst being proxy governed by Westminster/whitehall who withholds many functions out of agenda, who deliberately use Wales as a plaything & battleground without responsibility of actions where the Welsh Government is blamed for budget cuts policies made in London that in turn affects Wales disproportionately due to our underfunding, historical social ill health problems as a country. We must have without delay the devolution of policing/emergency services, criminal law & youth justice systems, and all major energy projects so Wales can decide what’s good for Wales not what’s good for Whitehall, and the Senedd whatever party governing be it Labour, Plaid Cymru or other must be fiscally responsible for Wales not continue to accept begging bowl funds from Westminster. Self government (home rule) should mean national pride whilst respecting our neighbours more so ourselves to create an aspirational nation that encourages entrepreneurship & prosperity where at present Wales tethered to London’s coattails is poor, resentful and a self destructive one largely fuelled by cynical agenda filled professional political journeymen & women who care for solely for themselves, their soho London lifestyle over Wales as a nation. We must act now to change Wales for the better, and the only way forward is more and extensive Devolution through home rule ending with either a federal UK meaning all nations are equally governed with proper parliaments, if not it will speed up it’s demised as a union. For the better I think.

  21. A Federal Cymru: [Not to be known as ‘Wales’].
    Cenedl Cymru.

    5 States known as:

    Dyfed – Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire. – Capital: Caerfyrddin. [5]
    Powys – Brecon, Radnor, Montgomery: Capital: Llandrindod Wells. [3]
    Gwynedd – All of N. Wales, inc Ynys Mon: Capital: Caernarfon. [4]
    Siluria – Basically Gwent and Glamorgan: Capital: Abertawe. [6]
    Caerdydd as a City State, which includes Penarth & Barry & the Airport. [4]

    Therefore: a 22 member single Chamber Senedd.
    Members elected on a Proportional Representation basis.
    [Ideally with Gender and Ethnicity balance].

    Capital City/Prif Ddinas: Aberystwyth.
    Senedd to be based in Aberystwyth, as the Primary seat of Government.
    Transport links to be greatly improved.
    Opens up the prospect of ‘inward investment’ to Mid Cymru.
    Providing Employment Opportunities for Rural Mid Cymru.

    Very provisional thoughts; a ‘lean’ Administrative Nationhood Country.
    The ‘States’ to have an Admin. structure of elected Members,
    on a 4/1 proportion to Federal Members. ie. 88 Members in total.
    County Councils as now operative are ALL disbanded.
    One Police Force : One NHS : One Fire Service : One Eduction Body etc.
    With a population expanding to say 3.5 million, we would be ‘an All Encompassing’ Federal State.
    A Neutral Country, no Armed forces, however with a need for a Customs presence. Excluding a Land Border with our English [neighbouring] border.

    Initially, unless the Electorate ‘want’ it, Cymru is not an Independent Country.
    It is a Federal entity within the United Kingdom, with full control of its
    Internal Affairs, choosing NOT to send elected Members to the UK Parliament,
    or to any UK Upper House. Cymru rejects the principle of a ‘House of Lords’.

    For discussion.

    Author: Clive V James aka clivebeca.
    Dated December 2014.

  22. Dear Clive V James aka clivebeca (lol!)

    Wales will always be known as Wales… despite your oppressive missive.

    Not for discussion.

    Author: SeaMôr Bytts aka Al Pacca
    Dated January 2015

  23. @SeaMôr bytts
    Thanks for your reply to clivebeca’s comment. The IWA’s constitutional convention, is now live and has it’s own website

    Clivebeca has posted his comment as an idea on the new website, we would really appreciate if you (and everyone else active on the Click on Wales community) could get involved in the online debate through this platform and repost your comment on clivebeca’s idea there too at:


  24. Good idea to have a national debate on the union. However this organisation is incapable of this due to its lack of real reach to ordinary people. I doubt it will ever get that reach. The iwa is it seems to me on my consistent studying of it over the last year mostly populated by the same old crowd of politicos mainly of the left still chasing the illusions of nirvana that is in their minds.
    Wales needs to stay in the uk so does scotland, in twenty years times the world is going to look very different. What we need to do is to radically dispose of all the hangers on in government and all the structures and tiers and get real democracy and power into the hands of real people. None of our current structures of government and political parties are answering the real crisis in the lives of ordinary people worried about their futures. the current structures of government and voting are utterly outdated and need tombe radically reformed. Wealth and success and a future must be driven towards ordinary folk, not big business and wealthy politicians. Labour wonder why they are losing support. Its not lost on the peope living in despair and loss of hope visiting a foodbank,how many millionaire labour politicians there are now. Really is Blair worth an estimated £60M identifiable with these people, or the jobbing councillors with no plan or structure or energy or interest in how they can improve their communities. No they are more interested in getting elected, claiming expenses and getting foreign trips. Do you really tink MP’s ar worth the pay rise?

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