Confusion reigns for Welsh voters

March 25, 2005

Devolution in Wales has muddied the political waters and may affect the way academics, students and the general population vote in the forthcoming election.

Academics and student leaders agree that the election picture in Wales is confused because the Assembly Government does not have full legislative powers.

Even in areas such as student support, where Westminster has devolved decision-making to the Assembly, policies in Wales are inextricably tied to those affecting English institutions.

Teresa Rees, pro vice-chancellor of Cardiff University, who is heading a review of Welsh tuition fees policy, said: "The balance of responsibility between different tiers is problematic, even when you have the same party in power in Westminster and the Assembly."

Kevin Morgan, political analyst and professor of city and regional planning at Cardiff, said: "Having multiple tiers of government is almost tailor-made for passing the buck."

Some commentators suggest that, with Assembly elections two years away, many Welsh voters, including more than 124,000 students and 7,500 academic staff, will use the general election to express feelings about Assembly policies. Cardiff Central, Swansea West, Cardigan and Conwy, are seats with marginal Labour majorities where the higher education vote is expected to count.

James Knight, president of National Union of Students Wales, said: "It would be understandable if students voted against Labour because of top-up fees, even though they may be pleased that the issue has been devolved to the Assembly."

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