Wednesday January 12th saw the launch of the Yes For Wales campaign in Swansea, gearing up for the referendum on March the 3rd, and we here at The Siren made sure that we were there to watch history in motion. As Student Union President Luke Young arrived, he told us : ‘I’m expecting a good blog from this!”, and we could hardly let the Prez down now could we? Editor Elena Cresci writes of her impressions from the meeting, supplemented by Sammy Siddique’s photography.
I remember one morning back in 1997, sat on the floor in Ysgol Pen Y Garth, Penarth, as our Deputy Head told us that history had been made, that Wales now had its own Assembly. I was only about 7 at the time, so my understanding of the event was limited to say the least, but some of it stuck with me, particularly when she said that this was something we’d remember in years to come.
I think it was probably this memory which particularly motivated me to attend the launch of the Yes for Wales campaign in Swansea on Wednesday. I was too young to be a part of history last time Wales made a major decision about its governing body, there wasn’t a chance I was going to miss out this time.
Sammy and I met in the Dylan Thomas Centre as torrential rain poured outside, camera in Sammy’s hand and Blackberry poised to take notes in mine. Upstairs, the foyer was full to the brim of people from all walks of life, and we were happy to see our Union well represented, with President Luke Young, Education Officer Luke James and Women’s Officer Raegan Healey among those in the audience, and Societies and Services Officer Raechel Mattey speaking on behalf of the Union on the panel.
As it stands, every time the Welsh Assembly wants to pass a new law, they require the permission from Westminster and Whitehall before they can implement it. All of the AMs present agreed that this is a cumbersome and time-consuming process, leading to delays in important legislature, for example, a change to make organ donation an opt-out process rather than opt-in. A Yes for Wales on March 3rd means greater power to the people and communities of Wales and a stronger voice not only within the UK but within Europe as well.
The fact that this is a cross-party campaign goes without saying, with representatives from each of the main parties present at the rally, differences put aside in order to fight for the best interests of Wales. What particularly struck me as the auditorium filled to the brim was the sense of a cross-generational community coming together, united under one cause and one nationality.
This was reflected in the varied choice of speakers. As well as Raechel, we heard from Roger Lewis, Chairman of Yes For Wales and Catrin Evans from media company Tinopolis among others, who each underlined the importance of communities coming together as integral to the success of this campaign. As the chairman of the meeting, Tyrone O’Sullivan stated at the beginning of the meeting, “This is about us the people”, and I couldn’t agree more.
Raechel made it clear what our role as students in Swansea would be; spreading the word, knocking on as many doors as possible and leafleting student communities to ensure that students turn out to vote. She pointed out that the students of Wales have ‘seen the benefits of devolution in action’, so it’s important that we make an effort to take a clear stance on the Assembly’s future roles in Wales.
In seven weeks time, Wales will decide how much power its Assembly has. Back in 1997, Wales’ second city was the only city to have voted ‘yes’ for the Welsh Assembly. We here at The Siren hope that in March Swansea will vote yes again, but this time, other major cities will join us too.