With the announcement last week that Labour and Plaid Cymru were in Senedd cooperation talks, speculation has been rife across the Wesh political sphere about what exactly this could mean.

So far there’s been little detail beyond the initial statement, however analysis in the press and online has so far mooted the potential for agreement on major areas like social care and council tax reform. It has also been speculated that one topic ripe for discussion could be Senedd reform.

Senedd reform is one area where cooperation is necessary - it would require parties to work together to pass changes, which could, in part, explain the appetite for a deal. Should Labour and Plaid bring forward proposals with their 43 members, they would be comfortably above the required two-thirds majority required for major constitutional change.

The size of the Senedd and the way its elections work has been a topic of conversation since the inception of the then National Assembly for Wales. The Richard Commission highlighted the capacity of the Senedd as an issue in 2004. More recently an expert panel in 2017 recommended numbers increase to between 80 and 90, a recommendation echoed by a Labour-chaired Senedd Committee just last year.

Then at May’s election, all three of Labour, Plaid and the Welsh Liberal Democrats’ manifestos called for reform in some way, albeit with some commitments stronger than others. Just weeks out of that election First Minister Mark Drakeford gave his most public commitment to date on reform backing a larger Parliament.

It certainly feels like momentum has shifted on the issue over the last few years, but there are still a number of unknowns holding us back from seeing these long awaited changes actually brought to life.

Now is the time for clarity. With a vague manifesto commitment around reform, Welsh Labour have yet to provide detail on their vision for a modern parliament. How big will it be? How will it be elected? How will we ensure it’s properly diverse and looks like the Wales it represents?

On each of these questions, the 2017 McAllister report provided clear recommendations. The expert panel’s conclusion was a Senedd of between 80-90 members, a preferred voting system of the Single Transferable Vote (STV), with integrated gender quotas. But this is just the start.

Some have argued that the upper end of this 80-90 should be a minimum. The reforms we pass must equip the Senedd with the capacity to do its job now and in the future.

Others have called for work to look at whether those recommended quotas could be extended to cover other protected characteristics, such as race and disability to ensure there are no blind spots when it comes to diversity.

What we need from any cooperation agreement is a clear commitment from both parties and a roadmap of how reform will be delivered and when.

We cannot wait for these reforms and if we are to see a change in time for the 2026 Senedd election the parties must begin now and set out how these changes will be made.

The only part of the Expert Panel recommendations implemented to date has been the franchise extension to 16 and 17-year-olds, which was done through legislation tabled by the Llywydd.

Any legislation on size, voting systems and quotas is likely to be much more complex and this route may not be ideal.

The First Minister’s statement on this in May called on the Senedd itself to take this forward. What that means in practice is up for debate.

Given the requirement for a two thirds majority in the Senedd, this naturally cannot be only Welsh Government legislation - it will need to have a cross-party basis for agreement.

Yet, the very nature of these talks with Plaid Cymru could pave the way for this and there are many options available for how the legislation could actually be delivered.

The big question remains what exactly a deal will include. In theory, with manifesto commitments from both parties it should be relatively easy to come to an agreement on shared priorities but the politics of carving out a joint programme may be more tricky.

What is needed is bravery from the leaders of both Labour and Plaid Cymru. For Plaid this will be easier while Labour’s Mark Drakeford may need to use some of the political capital he gained off the back of a hugely successful Senedd election campaign to keep his party on the side.

That will be difficult but we cannot go another 20 years discussing this and not doing anything about it. A stronger, fairer and more diverse Senedd is a battle worth fighting.

*Jess Blair is director of Electoral Reform Society Cymru

If you value The National's journalism, help us grow by becoming a subscriber.