Wales: Devolution and Self Rule

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The current Welsh National Assembly has 60 members, with another 40 Westminster MPs sitting in the UK Parliament in England.


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In the two Devolution referendums in Wales during the last century, the results changed dramatically in the 18 years that separated the voting dates, even though the overall interest in the result was reduced.

In 1979 the number of registered voters that chose to vote was 1,199,378 (58.3% of the electorate).
In 1997 this decreased to 1,112,117 (50.1% of the electorate).

1979 Devolution Referendum in Wales:

Question: Do you want the provisions of the Wales Act 1978 to be put into effect?
40% of the electorate had to say Yes, for this to be enacted.

  • 20.3% of the voters (243,048) chose YES. This was 11.8% of the electorate.
  • 79.7%  of the voters (956,330) said NO. This was 46.5% of the electorate.
  • Powys had the highest voter interest with 66.0% of the electorate voting.
  • Clwyd had the least voter interest with 51.1% of the electorate voting.
  • Gwynedd had the highest percentage of YES votes, with 34.4% of the VOTERS saying YES.
  • Gwent had the highest percentage of NO votes, with 87.9%  of the VOTERS saying NO.

1997 Assembly Referendum in Wales:


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Question: I agree that there should be a Welsh Assembly.
The 40% rule was NOT in force this time.

  • 50.3% of the voters (559,419) chose YES. This was 25.2% of the electorate.
  • 49.7% of the voters (552,698) chose NO. This was  24.9% of the electorate.
  • Gwynedd had the highest voter interest with 59.8% of the electorate voting.
  • Flintshire  had the least voter interest with 41.0% of the electorate voting.
  • Neath Port Talbot had the highest percentage of YES votes, with 66.5% of the VOTERS saying YES.
  • Monmouthshire had the highest percentage of NO votes, with 67.9%  of the VOTERS saying NO.

As a comparison of voter interest, the turnout in 1997  for the May General election was 73.5%.

Dates of the referendums in Wales and Scotland:

Welsh Devolution Referendum, 1 March 1979
Welsh Assembly Referendum, 18 September 1997
Scottish Devolution Referendum, 1 March 1979
Scottish Parliament Referendum, 11 September 1997

Source: Results of Devolution Referendums (1979 & 1997), Research Paper No 97/113, 10 November 1997


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