Taken as a whole the latest Silk recommendations, if accepted in their entirety by Westminster, can be said to mark out a road to stabilise and develop our devolutionary settlement. Somewhat understandably the media focus on the latest Silk recommendations has concentrated on aspects of Policing and Youth (Criminal) Justice.
There are other potentially far more significant recommendations, although you might be mistaken from much of the media’s focus on policing and criminal justice. One of the better overall analyses of the latest Silk Commission recommendations can be found on the Oggyblggy blog site.
Silk has also looked at transport and natural resources, which may move us towards a much more balanced devolutionary settlement, closer to the Scottish model. While many transport powers are already devolved, the Silk Commission took evidence that suggested that it would make sense to change the current devolutionary settlement so that the allocation of responsibilities more coherent.
Silk has recommended the further devolution of powers on rail, ports, bus and taxi regulation, along with control over speed and drink drive limits. The recommendations would create a simpler more coherent arrangement and could lead to the development of a much more integrated transport strategy for Wales. Silk has also recommended that the functions of the Traffic Commissioner in relation to buses should be devolved to Wales.
While there are understandably no recommendations in relation to the inter-city cross-border rail franchises, which Silk suggested should remain non-devolved, there is scope for the Welsh Government to have a greater role in the appointment of a new franchise operator. In relation to roads, there no recommendations for any changes in powers but it has been suggested that there should be much closer coordination between the two Governments.This is something which could ensure a more strategic long term approach rather than switching transport priorities back and for between east-west and north-south.
The recommendations should be welcomed and hopefully Westminster will put our national interests before its own party political interests and rapidly devolve the further powers. Too much time has been wasted and too many opportunities have been lost because the National Assembly actually lacked adequate powers to work for Wales, to act in the Welsh national interest and to build a stronger, more prosperous nation.