Welsh independence, crazier than Brexit!

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.   

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The UK union – are we lurching toward its destruction?

Over the last twenty years, the United Kingdom has undergone a programme of constitutional reform embedded in membership of the European Union (EU). Devolved legislatures and governments have been established in different forms in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The decision, following the referendum of June 2016, to leave the European Union has major repercussions on the internal constitution of the United Kingdom (UK) and its relationship with the Republic of Ireland. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU but have also expressed a preference for remaining in the United Kingdom; now they cannot have both. Control of competences coming back from the EU is contested between the UK and devolved governments. The lack of rules in the largely unwritten constitution means that there are no clear ways of resolving the resulting conflicts. The United Kingdom has become the site of a real-time experiment in constitutional change, in conditions of uncertainty.

Before we analyse the demands of the Sots and the Welsh let’s first take a cool look at the matters of economic fact. 

1 Both Scotland and Wales do not earn GDP anywhere near that of the UK which is the sixth biggest in the World. It is certainly much lower in Scotland and lower again in Wales and both are drastically lower than the South East of England including London. 

2 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 fiddled with and now both Scotland and Northern Ireland get a better deal than Wales.

3 Without the wealth of metropolitan England both Scotland and Wales would be substantially poorer.

4 Handouts to the poorer parts of the UK by the EU were 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 movements of each country want?  Do they want complete separation, or more devolved power over taxation? Trading affairs (being free to loin or leave trading-blocks outside the British Isles) ? Lawn and Order? H ow would the independent nations handle defence? Immigration? Do they fully recognise that independence will make Wales, perhaps, by 15% poorer, at best and Scotland perhaps 10% worse off in GDPHI? 

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 Government than the nationalist entities?

Do they want to become individual nations in a federation of the British Iles?

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 focused 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.   

  • I have studiously avoided reference to Northern Ireland.

20 years of Welsh Devolution.

20 years of Welsh devolution.

Wales decided 20 years ago to devolve its Government from Westminster by the tiniest of margins. In fact by only 6,300 votes on a 29% turn out.  This statistic is very interesting particularly when the Welsh Government chooses to support a Customs Union in the Brexit negotiations which ignores the majority (over a million votes on a huge % turnout) opinion as expressed in the Brexit referendum.  However as Welsh people come to terms with the Welsh Assembly it is time to take account of what has or has not been achieved.

Firstly, Wales is virtually a one-party state, the nation overwhelmingly supports the labour party which has been in power since devolution and is likely to remain as the leading political party for the foreseeable future. Plaid Cymru, is showing some ingress but still remains a substantial minority

The matters that have been devolved include education, health, and transport.  The record of achievement over the twenty years has not been covered in glory.  Health and transport are particularly poor and compare really badly with the rest of the UK.

About the only initiatives that can be discerned by the devolved administration so far have been the free prescriptions for the elderly and the charging for plastic bags as a gesture to environmental improvement.

Sadly, Wales’ health service is seen as the worst in the UK with two hospitals under special measures and the North East Wales/Chester elective surgery debacle that continues.  Rural Wales is in crisis both for the supply of GP’s, and hospital staff shortages are acute throughout the country.

On transport the Government has been dithering about the M4 relief road around Newport, seemingly for ever, which emphasises the Governments lack of enterprise and initiative.  Leadership has been and remains poor, indicative of a safe house for labour.

Instead the Assembly has been paralysed by risk aversion and inertia. Inward investment has been relatively poor and Government support for enterprise dire.  It is as if the Welsh Assembly is more concerned with the disbursement of aid, rather than the generation of income.  Some would argue that this typifies the Labour/ Tory divide.

The Assembly is bitterly opposed to Brexit because Wales is designated as one of the poorer parts of Europe and deserves support grants, understandable in the shorter term.  Clearly the Assembly believes that it is better to beg in Brussels than London, despite the UK’s enormous contribution to the EU coffers.

The belief in the idea of Welsh independence from London seems at odds with the desire to be subservient to the European Union.  Some find it odd that smaller nationalism for Wales sits comfortably with a tiny country inside the behemoth that is the EU.

The desire for independence is a minority view, but as in all these matters including the original referendum, apathy rules and the voluble independence lobby that won 20 years ago and will probably win again, it is certain that they are gaining ground.

So, what are the prospects for Wales over the next 20 years, Brexit or no Brexit?

Firstly, we want to be certain of our relationship as a nation of the United Kingdom. Being British, is this our primary persona? or is it being Welsh? Does independence mean the separation of the nation state from its UK status?

It is probable that the vast majority of those both born and living in Wales would wish to remain British.  Does this mean that being Welsh is somehow of lesser worth?  I don’t think so.  Being Welsh and British sits well with most, not only because of the common English language, customs and history, but because of the economic facts of life. That is not to say that the historical exploitation of Welsh minerals and labour do not matter, they do.

We are a small nation which currently relies on Westminster for much of our national purse, The Welsh Assembly has new powers of tax policy and we are yet to see how that is exercised.  However, the basic tenet remains true that Wales does not, as it presently stands, earn its corn.

Is the way forward then, towards financial independence, or are we to move towards an independent government dependent on another financially superior country or union?

It is really important to get the objective in proper focus and to be realistic about the prospects of success.  We need to establish realistic goals.

It seems to me that the financial health of the nation comes first whether in or out of the EU. Let us put aside for the time being the ‘Brexit’ issues and consequences.  If Wales is to move forward it must improve its wealth creation.  This does not mean an economic free for all, but it does mean that government of whatever hue, does develop strategies to improve the Welsh national income.  From that improvement will follow the quality of life for all the people of Wales.

Wales has certain advantages not shared by the rest of the UK, not least its natural beauty and its rich agricultural heritage, not to mention the richness of its national and international cultures..  The travel and leisure industries are improving but much remains to be done to put Wales nearer the top of the European tourist destinations.

In agriculture the picture is much more complex, and there are extensive areas where neither arable or livestock are suitable.  A strategy to marry these fringe areas into tourism would surely make sense.

To make Wales accessible through to the western and northern coasts is crucial to opening up the Welsh hinterland, via a good communication system.  The tardiness of the Assembly government to address these issues is lamentable.

The great festival of Eisteddfods International and National are unique and truly something to shout about.  The WNO, the orchestras and choirs and theatres of Wales all need to be encouraged to put Wales on the Culture map of the world.  The Millennium Centre in Cardiff is a beacon for cultural progress, we need more investment and international awareness as in the likes of ‘Cardiff Singer of the World’.

Wales must not allow Cardiff to be the centre of all things.  Sure, we want and have got a capital city to be proud of, but we also need thriving centres for west to centre to north, which will attract industry, skills and investment.

First among equals is most obviously roads and communication systems.  Wales has to grasp the nettle and open up its lovely face to welcome industry, technology, tourism and advanced agriculture.

To achieve these goals are the ones that count.  Yes, let us be proud to be Welsh, but better even to be proud and successful as a nation.

Wales – 20 years on

20 years of Welsh devolution.

Wales decided 20 years ago to devolve its Government from Westminster by the tiniest of margins. In fact by only 6,300 votes on a 29% turn out.  This statistic is very interesting particularly when the Welsh Government chooses to support a Customs Union in the Brexit negotiations which ignores the majority (over a million votes on a huge % turnout) opinion as expressed in the Brexit referendum.  However as Welsh people come to terms with the Welsh Assembly it is time to take account of what has or has not been achieved.

Firstly, Wales is virtually a one-party state, the nation overwhelmingly supports the labour party which has been in power since devolution and is likely to remain as the leading political party for the foreseeable future. Plaid Cymru, is showing some ingress but still remains a substantial minority

The matters that have been devolved include education, health, and transport.  The record of achievement over the twenty years has not been covered in glory.  Health and transport are particularly poor and compare really badly with the rest of the UK.

About the only initiatives that can be discerned by the devolved administration so far have been the free prescriptions for the elderly and the charging for plastic bags as a gesture to environmental improvement.

Sadly, Wales’ health service is seen as the worst in the UK with two hospitals under special measures and the North East Wales/Chester elective surgery debacle that continues.  Rural Wales is in crisis both for the supply of GP’s, and hospital staff shortages are acute throughout the country.

On transport the Government has been dithering about the M4 relief road around Newport, seemingly for ever, which emphasises the Governments lack of enterprise and initiative.  Leadership has been and remains poor, indicative of a safe house for labour.

Instead the Assembly has been paralysed by risk aversion and inertia. Inward investment has been relatively poor and Government support for enterprise dire.  It is as if the Welsh Assembly is more concerned with the disbursement of aid, rather than the generation of income.  Some would argue that this typifies the Labour/ Tory divide.

The Assembly is bitterly opposed to Brexit because Wales is designated as one of the poorer parts of Europe and deserves support grants, understandable in the shorter term.  Clearly the Assembly believes that it is better to beg in Brussels than London, despite the UK’s enormous contribution to the EU coffers.

The belief in the idea of Welsh independence from London seems at odds with the desire to be subservient to the European Union.  Some find it odd that smaller nationalism for Wales sits comfortably with a tiny country inside the behemoth that is the EU.

The desire for independence is a minority view, but as in all these matters including the original referendum, apathy rules and the voluble independence lobby that won 20 years ago and will probably win again, it is certain that they are gaining ground.

So, what are the prospects for Wales over the next 20 years, Brexit or no Brexit?

Firstly, we want to be certain of our relationship as a nation of the United Kingdom. Being British, is this our primary persona? or is it being Welsh? Does independence mean the separation of the nation state from its UK status?

It is probable that the vast majority of those both born and living in Wales would wish to remain British.  Does this mean that being Welsh is somehow of lesser worth?  I don’t think so.  Being Welsh and British sits well with most, not only because of the common English language, customs and history, but because of the economic facts of life. That is not to say that the historical exploitation of Welsh minerals and labour do not matter, they do.

We are a small nation which currently relies on Westminster for much of our national purse, The Welsh Assembly has new powers of tax policy and we are yet to see how that is exercised.  However, the basic tenet remains true that Wales does not, as it presently stands, earn its corn.

Is the way forward then, towards financial independence, or are we to move towards an independent government dependent on another financially superior country or union?

It is really important to get the objective in proper focus and to be realistic about the prospects of success.  We need to establish realistic goals.

It seems to me that the financial health of the nation comes first whether in or out of the EU. Let us put aside for the time being the ‘Brexit’ issues and consequences.  If Wales is to move forward it must improve its wealth creation.  This does not mean an economic free for all, but it does mean that government of whatever hue, does develop strategies to improve the Welsh national income.  From that improvement will follow the quality of life for all the people of Wales.

Wales has certain advantages not shared by the rest of the UK, not least its natural beauty and its rich agricultural heritage, not to mention the richness of its national and international cultures..  The travel and leisure industries are improving but much remains to be done to put Wales nearer the top of the European tourist destinations.

In agriculture the picture is much more complex, and there are extensive areas where neither arable or livestock are suitable.  A strategy to marry these fringe areas into tourism would surely make sense.

To make Wales accessible through to the western and northern coasts is crucial to opening up the Welsh hinterland, via a good communication system.  The tardiness of the Assembly government to address these issues is lamentable.

The great festival of Eisteddfods International and National are unique and truly something to shout about.  The WNO, the orchestras and choirs and theatres of Wales all need to be encouraged to put Wales on the Culture map of the world.  The Millennium Centre in Cardiff is a beacon for cultural progress, we need more investment and international awareness as in the likes of ‘Cardiff Singer of the World’.

Wales must not allow Cardiff to be the centre of all things.  Sure, we want and have got a capital city to be proud of, but we also need thriving centres for west to centre to north, which will attract industry, skills and investment.

First among equals is most obviously roads and communication systems.  Wales has to grasp the nettle and open up its lovely face to welcome industry, technology, tourism and advanced agriculture.

To achieve these goals are the ones that count.  Yes, let us be proud to be Welsh, but better even to be proud and successful as a nation.