In my blog entitled Lurching toward the destruction of the Union, I noted that both Scotland and Wales depend on Central Government at Westminster for substantial funding to sustain the national standard of living. The distribution of these funds is as per Barnett formula which, for whatever reason, favours Scotland above Wales. I deliberately did not delve into thing Northern Irish since that whole scene including the backstop are essentially incomprehensible.
I repeat the main premise of my argument that:
1 Both Scotland £133.0 Bn and Wales £61.5 Bn do not earn GDP anywhere near that of the UK which is the sixth biggest in the World. It is certainly much lower in Wales and is drastically lower than the South East of England including London. Wales has 23% of its population living in poverty. Average wages in most of Wales excluding the three conurbations of Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham are less than £20,000 per annum.
2 Wales has a net fiscal deficit of £9.1 Bn. This is the key issue and I have yet to hear a reasoned response, or proposal to solve this gap, from any of the nationalist independent parties.
3 Currently all the devolved regions of the UK depend on hand outs from central government at Westminster, thus enjoying their existing standards of living. This distribution was entirely dependent on the Barnett formula but this has been adjusted over time in the favour of Scotland and Northern Ireland and to the detriment of Wales.
4 Without the wealth of metropolitan England, Wales (and the other devolved entities) would be substantially poorer.
5 Handouts to the poorer parts of the UK by the EU are of course funded by the UK’s net contribution to the EU. The EU were always net gainers from UK membership.
What is it then, that the independence movement of Wales want? The labour Government that has ruled Wales on devolved matters for 20 years has overseen a gradual decline in the Welsh economy compared with the rest of the UK. What Wales is known for, apart from certain sporting excellence, is fragmented industry with 99% of businesses described as ‘small’. Indeed the Labour Assembly Government is known best for what it has not done – like cancelled the vital M4 relief road. Kicking the can down the road is the key talent of the Welsh assembly, with neither government nor opposition showing any leadership or innovative intent.
Does Plaid Cymru want complete separation? Or more devolved power over taxation? Trading affairs (being free to join or leave trading-blocks outside the British Isles)? Lawn and Order? How would the independent nations handle defence? Immigration? Do they fully recognise that independence will make Wales, perhaps, by 15% poorer, at best!
If devolution is taken further should the devolved governments or assemblies have representatives in Central UK government?
If Wales and Scotland become devolved or closer to independence then surely the English Assembly cannot be far away. Would an English Assembly carry more clout with Central ‘Federal Westminster Government’ than the nationalist entities? After all the majority of income will still be from South East England.
Do they want to become individual nations in a federation of the British Isles?
The great affection for Scottish and Welsh cultures is a marvellous thing and to be cherished. Certainly, most would agree, that this truly the business of provincial government.
It can be contended that this up surge in nationalism is more driven by cultural influence than economic reality. No doubt, central government, as it now is, is overly focussed on the GDP generating regions (who could not excuse them?). One could not argue, that the Scots and the Welsh have a point as they strive to affirm their tribal identity. However it is an enormous and disproportional step to leap toward independence from The Union of the United Kingdom.
Devolution has let the cat out of the bag. Devolution for the West Country, the North East and North West seem just aspirations too. Where do you stop?
Love your tribe, love your nation, but love our union as well.