First Minister Carwyn Jones has responded to proposals for a major transfer of additional powers to Scotland by saying that Wales should be offered the same. But he added that the Welsh Government would then choose what to accept and that he continues to have concerns about income tax powers.
Whatever has been offered to Scotland today must be also offered to Wales, so we can better determine our own preferences for the future. However, we have consistently said that before any consideration can be given to income tax we must see fair funding delivered. It would completely irresponsible to lock in underfunding.
We would certainly expect to be offered full control over our electoral arrangements and Air Passenger Duty, in common with Scotland. It would unfairly discriminate against Wales if these were not on the table, and I would expect the UK Government to make this clear in the coming days.
A promise was made to the people of Scotland, and that is being delivered. However, I have long said we cannot continue with this piecemeal approach to devolution and changing the UK. We need a proper conversation that treats all four nations as equals, and which develops a long-term view on what the new UK should look like. This stuttering, ever-changing series of offers is confusing to people, and ultimately extremely damaging to the prospects of the union staying together in the long-term.
Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith says the Smith Commission blueprint for giving new powers to the Scottish Parliament should not simply be translated into a plan for Wales.
The Labour MP says that the people of Wales should 'decide for themselves' what powers should be transferred in any future devolution. And he's repeated his warning that income tax devolution poses 'far more risks than benefits for Wales.'
This is his full statement:
The conclusions of the Smith Commission clearly have significant implications for Wales and we will need to consider them with great care. However, Wales is not Scotland. Our culture and history, our legal system, our economy and society are all more integrated with England than those of Scotland. The Welsh people will want to decide for themselves what additional powers we might want to exercise through our National Assembly, rather than simply following behind Scotland.
My view remains unchanged that those additional powers, and wider changes to the framework of devolution across the whole of the UK should be decided in a Constitutional Convention. However, at that Convention, the powers on offer to Wales will now need to reflect those that are being offered to Scotland, including on Income Tax.
At present, it seems clear to me that the devolution of income tax includes far more risks than benefits for Wales, especially given the Tory Party’s apparent willingness to break up Britain for party political gain. Nevertheless, that decision should ultimately fall to the Welsh people.
I welcome today’s Smith Commission report which I believe is another giant step towards the long held Liberal Democrat vision of a Federal United Kingdom and Home Rule.
While Scotland’s future devolution settlement is clear, the same can not be said for Wales – that needs to change as Wales must not be left behind.
First and foremost, Wales must speak with one voice if we are to be heard. All parties had representatives on the Silk Commission, therefore all parties should at the very least subscribe to the main thrust of the Commission’s proposals. So far, only the Liberal Democrats have done so in Westminster.
The Smith Commission’s report is wide-ranging and many of the proposals would also be appropriate for Wales. Momentum for devolution is moving faster now than it has for years. We must take this opportunity to ensure Wales gets the powers it needs to help build a stronger economy and fairer society.
Plaid Cymru has welcomed the Smith Commission's plan for future devolution to Scotland but says it's disappointed that it 'doesn't fulfil' the promises given to Scottish voters during the independence referendum campaign.
Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards says Wales must now be offered the same powers as those offered to Scotland.
Plaid Cymru believes that Wales is as much of a nation as Scotland, and powers made available to Scotland should also be made available to Wales.
We warned during the passage of the Wales Bill that it would be superseded by events in Scotland, and that has been proved by the proposals of the Smith Commission.
The challenge is now for the Welsh branches of the London parties to explain, if these powers are good enough for Scotland why aren’t they good enough for Wales?
Assembly members will get a pay rise of nearly £10,000 a year under proposals from the independent body set up to decide their salaries. AMs are currently paid £53,852, due to rise to £54,390 next year. An increase to £64,000 would be implemented after the next Assembly election in 2016.
The Remuneration Board says AMs increased powers in the next Assembly justify the increase but their pension scheme will be made less generous. Even so, the overall package will be worth 10.4%.
AMs' pay was frozen after the last election in 2011 but they will get a 1% rise next year, which is similar to what's happened to Welsh NHS workers pay, although their pay packets are usually a lot smaller.
The most highly paid politician in the Assembly will remain the First Minister. Carwyn Jones' salary will go up from £135,260 to £140,000 if he keeps his job after the election. The pension cut means that his overall package will actually shrink by more than 2%, as will also be the case for other ministers.
The chair of the Remuneration Board, Sandy Blair, said they felt they couldn't suggest a bigger increase for the First Minister as that would have pushed his salary above the £142,500 paid to the Prime Minister. There will now be a public consultation before the Board makes its final decision. It will then be implemented automatically, following a decision by AMs that they would no longer vote on their own pay increases.
In the Senedd, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams has called for a specific anti-extremism strategy for Wales following the revelations that two Cardiff men appeared in an Iraqi Islamist recruitment video. Kirsty Williams said:
Last year, the UK Government set up the Tackling Extremism and Radicalisation Task Force to look into the issue. While this is welcome, this should be backed by a specific Welsh anti-extremism strategy to ensure that our communities remains safe.
People will of course be very worried and upset that men who have grown up here in Wales have resorted to joining extreme and dangerous groups. Not only do we need to remember that these men are very much in a minority, but we must also look at the potential causes that have led them to take these drastic measures.
Labour's Shadow Scottish Secretary tells our Political Editor Adrian Masters that 'in the first year of power [Labour] will be passing more powers for Scotland and for Wales.'
Margaret Curran is due to speak at an event in the National Assembly for Wales organised by the Institute of Welsh Affairs. She's expected to promise that if Labour wins next year's UK Election it 'will not take the Union for granted.'
And she's due to acknowledge that September's independence referendum has been a 'wake-up call' for those who think the United Kingdom's nations are stronger together.