Why are Welsh Assembly Members changing their name?

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The assembly has been based in the Senedd in Cardiff Bay since 2006

On 6 May, the Welsh Assembly is undergoing a bit of a rebrand.

More than 20 years after its foundation, its name has changed and so has the title by which its 60 elected representatives are known.

The National Assembly for Wales will be known as Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament, while politicians will be called Members of the Senedd.

The revamp has been three years in the making and not without debate or controversy.

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AMs will go by the abbreviation MS from now on

What will Assembly Members be called now?

Since the inception of the assembly in 1999, its representatives have been known as Assembly Members, or AM for short.

But under the name change, elected politicians will now be known as Members of the Senedd, which will be abbreviated to MS.

In Welsh the abbreviation will change to AS, for Aelodau o’r Senedd, which replaces the former title AC.

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Senedd, which means parliament in Welsh, will now become part of the official name of the parliament

Why bother changing the name?

The assembly was born after a referendum in 1997, which led to some powers transferring to Wales.

The first elections were held in 1999 and the assembly moved into its current home, the Senedd building in Cardiff Bay, in 2006.

In the beginning, it couldn’t make major changes to the legislation governing Wales, but that changed with the adoption of law-making powers in 2011.

A significant development was the Wales Bill in 2017, in which the Welsh Assembly gained the power to change its name.

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Presiding Officer Elin Jones rejected the Welsh Parliament name over concerns the abbreviation could lead to ridicule

Muppets not wanted

The re-brand follows a public consultation to find a new name for the assembly.

About 3,000 people were surveyed, and about 75% of participants voted for the name Welsh Parliament.

However, concerns were raised over the name, as it was feared members could become subject to ridicule because the planned abbreviation – MWP for Member of the Welsh Parliament – is the first syllable of the Welsh word for muppet.

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More than 100 people, including 30 famous faces, wrote an open letter to call for the Assembly to be given a Welsh-only name

Why does it have a bilingual name?

It is a compromise.

Welsh Parliament was proposed by former assembly Tory leader Andrew RT Davies in 2012, but Presiding Officer Elin Jones, who looks after the day-to-day running of the assembly, wanted the Welsh-only name Senedd, which is also the name of the building that houses the debating chamber.

That was backed by several celebrities, including actor Michael Sheen, Catatonia singer Cerys Matthews and rugby referee Nigel Owens.

But it split the assembly, Plaid Cymru and some Labour backbenchers supported it, but it was opposed by the Conservatives, who said the new name should celebrate the Welsh and English language. The Welsh Government also backed a bilingual name.

AMs backed the bilingual name in a vote in October 2019 and voted against an amendment from Plaid Cymru AM Rhun ap Iowerth a month later for the assembly to go by Senedd Cymru only.

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