IT is remarkable how time and Constitutional Commissions change.

In 1973, the Royal Commission on the Constitution set up by Harold Wilson in the wake of nationalist by-election victories by Gwynfor Evans in Carmarthen and Winnie Ewing in Hamilton pronounced independence “a complete non-starter”.

Chaired by the Scottish judge Lord Kilbrandon, it found “the very idea of dividing up Great Britain into three sovereign states nonsensical”.

Fifty years on and a new cross-party Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales, set up as a result of the Co-operation Agreement between Plaid Cymru and Labour, finds that independence is perfectly “viable”.

The National: Winnie Ewing and Gwynfor Evans

It also puts forward two other possible options, which it says are also viable – federalism and what it calls “enhanced devolution”. Instead of coming down conclusively in favour of any of these three options, it sets out a matrix of 12 criteria and levels of risk against which each should be judged.

For five out of the 12, independence is assessed to have “significant advantages” over the other two options.

Independence for Wales, the commissioners concluded, would achieve better democratic accountability, a greater ability to shape the future, more joined-up government within Wales, economic policies more tailored to Wales’s needs and a more stable constitutional settlement.

READ MORE: Plaid Cymru leader calls for 'outdated' Barnett Formula to be ditched

That three Unionist party representatives – including a Conservative – could sign up to this as a unanimous statement is symbol of how far Welsh independence has moved from the margins to the mainstream.

In the Commission’s assessment, the federal option comes out worst, mainly because there is so little demand for it, especially in England and Scotland: “There would need to be a seismic shift in attitudes across the UK for a federal UK to come into being, even if it were the preferred option in Wales.” Radical federalism – Labour’s big idea a few years ago – is unmasked here as more of a slogan than a practical programme.

In the short-term, the Commission focuses on steps it says are urgently needed to prevent devolution from collapsing. But this involves a hefty obstacle course which includes scrapping both the House of Lords and the Barnett formula, creating a conveyor belt of new law-making powers for Wales and gold-plating the serially abused Sewel Convention.

The National:

How likely is it that any Westminster government would be willing to agree to all this?

It is a question the Commission leaves hanging in the air. But we know from experience that less than short change will be produced by the Tories. As for Labour, the direction of travel for all Keir Starmer’s policy commitments is to row back. He has made no firm commitments at all on the constitution for Wales – with the single exception of devolving the Levelling Up Fund.

Even if the contours of Keir Starmer’s constitutional policy are revealed – in a keynote speech, in London, no doubt, over the next few months – Labour have a problem.

This is not 1973. It’s not even 1997. Constitutional change is not something done to us, or for us, anymore. It’s something we do now for ourselves.

In spirit; in our thinking; increasingly, as we saw in the pandemic, in policy and action – in a sense, we’re independent already.

It’s the status quo that is not an option anymore, as the report boldly says. Yet, economically and socially, it’s the status quo that Westminster has delivered for the past 50 years, since Kilbrandon reported. What once was nonsense is increasingly a new common sense for more and more people in Wales.