WHILE Scotland continues to gear itself up for its referendum on independence next week, The Welsh Government has signified its intention to try to refocus its own plans for the redrawing of boundaries.

The return to the political top table of former education minister Leighton Andrews in Carwyn Jones’ cabinet reshuffle this week, is a signal that the issue of local government reorganisation will no longer be allowed to drift like an abandoned supertanker.

Wales’ 22 city, county borough and county councils were instructed some considerable time ago to examine the issue of merging with one or more of their neighbours to reduce their number, a move deemed to be unavoidable by Cardiff Bay mandarins if Wales is to be governed effectively.

It was hinted at the time, well over a year ago, that long recognised geographical, political and other boundaries real and imagined would not be respected, as change is vital.

Councils reacted at the time as if simultaneously stung by wasps. That is unsurprising, given that major upheaval of the sort indicated does not go down well in these shorter, narrower corridors of power.

Recently, reports have begun to emerge about possible mergers, and the idea, in parts of Gwent at least, has been not been well received.

Newport and Monmouthshire for instance - mooted for merger when a report on the Wales-wide issue surfaced last year - appear to regard the prospect as about as appealing as being forced to watch an X Factor box set, and this is shaping up to be a battleground across Wales.

Mr Andrews’ new role as minister for public services will involve him having to knock plenty of local government heads together, in order to ‘encourage’ some movement toward mergers.

He has form in this respect, in that as education minister he oversaw the messy marriages of disparate parts of the university sector in Wales.

Diplomacy was pretty thin on the ground during that process, as the very public row over the future of Cardiff Metropolitan University demonstrated.

But however indirectly, local government reorganisation involves everyone in Wales, not just an, albeit significant, part of its education sector.

There will be issues to address that affect all of us, not least the likelihood of there being winners and losers in terms of council tax increases for some and decreases for others, as a result of some of these proposals.

What we, as council tax payers, think about mergers will have to be taken into consideration at some point, and that is where those geo-political rivalries which are such a factor in Wales will come into play.

It is worth remembering that 20 or more years ago, when local government reorganisation was last being prepared, there was a proposal to merge Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil - and possibly bits of other areas - to form a Heads of the Valleys council.

This was greeted in these areas with such vehement opposition that a ballot was organised, admittedly by a sector of the plans dissenters, to gauge support and opposition to the idea. If my mind serves me correctly, around 95 per cent of the considerable number of people who took part voted no. Not surprisingly, the idea was quietly dropped.

It may be entirely reasonable to consider that 22 local authorities for Wales is far too many, though the counter to that is that such a number are required to more effectively manage a diverse geographical, economic, political and sociological mix.

But from the outside, the current system does look like one in which the concept of trying to herd cats plays a considerable role.

Plenty of blunt views have been expressed on the merger proposal already, and with Mr Andrews on board, the arguments are likely to be blunter still - but he must remember that this is an issue that will affect all of us.

Another factor that may influence how he goes about his work is that in a little more than 18 months time, Wales will go into Assembly elections.

The Welsh Government will be extremely sensitive to that, and to the dangers of inflaming local sensibilities when the small matter of who will govern Wales for the next five years is up for grabs.

It is thus a possibility that definitive change in the local government will not be finalised until after May 2016.

With the universities’ reorganisation, Mr Andrews displayed a liking for taking the metaphorical bull by the horns.

Wider political realities may dictate that as regards local government reorganisation, for the time being at least, he leaves those horns well alone, and skirts the edge of the ring wearing anything but red.