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Posted - 22-09-2017

Reader Services / Research

A look back at the ’97 Referendum using the Library’s electronic resources

This week saw the 20th anniversary of the Welsh referendum that paved way for the creation of the National Assembly for Wales. I decided to see what I could discover about this historic occasion within the Library’s various online subscriptions.  (*To access these resources from outside the Library building you will have to use your reader’s ticket. If you haven’t got a reader’s ticket you can register very easily here).

Whilst support for devolution was low during the first referendum in 1979, the ensuing political and economic landscape over the next decade and a half led to increased calls for a second referendum. As a result, the Labour party included proposals for a second referendum in their 1992 manifesto, and after their landslide victory in the 1997 general election, these were set in motion.

The Referenda (Scotland and Wales) Act asked voters if they were in favour of devolution for Scotland and Wales. Many commentators analysed what devolution would mean for the future of the United Kingdom, as can be seen in this article from ‘The World Today’:

 

The referendum was held on the 18th of September 1997, and unlike the referendum in 1979, the result was extremely close. In fact, the votes were so close, the result hung on the announcement from Carmarthenshire. As the result came in, there were wild celebrations amongst the Yes campaigners as devolution was secured by a margin of 6,721 votes.

The Guardian reports for the days after both Welsh referenda can be seen here and here:

 

As a result of this narrow victory, the Government of Wales Act 1998 was passed by the Labour government to create a National Assembly for Wales:

 

There was a concern that the low voter turnout meant that voters were apathetic towards the notion of a national assembly, however this study by Roger Scully, Richard Wyn Jones and Dafydd Trystan concludes that this was not the case:

 

However, even though Welsh devolution was achieved by the narrowest of margins, Richard Wyn Jones and Bethan Lewis were keen to point out that the result was a substantial achievement for those in the ’Yes’ campaign

 

Following such a momentous change to the country’s political landscape, and following further referendums in 2006 and 2011, it’s only natural that commentators and scholars have sought to discuss and evaluate the impact of devolution on various aspects of life in Wales:

Evaluating Devolution in Wales by Adrian Kay

Serving the Nation: Devolution and the Civil Service in Wales by Alistair Cole

New Labour, Education and Wales: the devolution decade by David Reynolds

Devolution and the shifting political economic geographies of the United Kingdom

 

Paul Jackson

Legal Deposit, Electronic and Acquisitions Librarian

2 responses

At the end of the successful YES FOR WALES campaign the papers of the Yes Campaign Executive meetings, planning papers and promotional materials were all lodged by the Campaign with the National Library. The decision to do this was prompted by the Campaign Convenor Professor Hywel Francis. I would hope these historic campaign materials would be easily available to anyone wanting to research how the rubicon was crossed.

Mari James

Commented September 25, 2017 / 22:29:06

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A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

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