Tuesday, 25 October 2011

A vote for independence?

If a week is a long time in politics, it only took a few days for us to witness two party leaders appealing to their parties for support.
Over the weekend Alex Salmond addressed his party conference and outlined the case for Scotland leaving the United Kingdom. He had a rapturous welcome by his party  members and even the Scottish voters are beginning to warm to the prospect if the latest opinion polls are to be believed.
Meanwhile in Westminster David Cameron appealed to his parliamentary colleagues for their support and their response was to give him a large raspberry. 
All he wanted was for them to not go in for gesture politics and vote for a referendum on leaving the EU. The majority of his back benchers chose to ignore his pleas. This despite him pandering to the anti-Europeans by agreeing with them that powers ought to be repatriated, but now was not the right time. It begs the question, when?
The one party leader is riding high, the other is a bust flush. You can decide in which category they fall in.
Clearly you can’t expect to sit at the top table of the EU to protect UK interests and at the same time send a message to very same body that you want as little to do with their rules as possible. And add, as a by the way, that most of us want to leave your club.
With more than half of David Cameron’s backbenchers prepared to vote against his wishes it is clear which way the tide is turning within the Conservative party – to be out of the EU. As a backbencher said last night after the vote  “the issue isn’t going away.”
In Scotland the ruling party there is united in wishing to leave the Union but the union they want to leave is the United Kingdom.
Similar aspirations. They both want to rule themselves.
But there are differences, whilst the Scots want an end to English rule, they still see membership of the EU in their national interest.  Alex Salmond, who was an economist before entering politics, can see real advantages for his country in membership of the EU.
It is quite conceivable that if Scotland gets its way it will be a full member of the European Union in a few years time whilst if the Conservatives get theirs, England will be out.
What about Wales? Currently, Wales is a net beneficiary of European aid. Its economy has been greatly helped by European infrastructure support. To be cut off from European funds would seriously damage the nation’s health.
Although it might ‘just’ conceivably be in England’s interest to leave the EU it certainly wouldn’t be in Wales's.
It would be ironic indeed, that in the process of winning power back to Westminster the Conservatives would have unwittingly given the movement for Welsh independence its biggest boost.
Has the momentum started by the Tories vote last night, unwittingly given Plaid Cymru a golden opportunity to push for a referendum on independence in Wales too?
A funny old business, politics.


  1. Everyone would like to see an independent Wales, and that includes the Scots and Irish too. But, it seems the Welsh are against it.

    Too wedded to welfare. And who can blame them?

  2. The fact is that there is a "little Britain" faction in the Tory party determined to reverse Social improvements provided by for example the Social Chapter. The UK is the most unequal state in terms of wealth in the whole of Europe.

    Plaid needs to grasp the nettle and heed the advice of people like Adam Price and go hard for Independence. We need to argue the case in the face of a future Little Britain after the loss of Scotland with the nightmare scenario of perpetual Tory rule. If that doesn't frighten us to seriously consider Independence within the EU I dont know what will!

  3. British nationalism is a characteristic of both Labour and Tories. Note the "Brit Left" sided with right wing Tories in the UK House of Commons vote this week.

    A large missing element in the debate on our independence is any true appreciation of the European dimension. As Jill Evans repeatedly points out, "we are not alone". And it's much more than Scotland. Flanders is on its way, maybe ahead of Scotland. Also, Catalunya, Euskadi, etc. In her many reports and conferences on Wales and the EU, the EFA president contends that we're part of a flotilla of sub-state nations (technical term) moving towards member-state status.

    Part of the reason for ignorance about Wales' relationship with the EU, I contend, is the failure of 'Welsh' journalism. It's a disgrace, for example, that BBC 'Wales' has all those hacks in Cardiff Bay and the imperial capital yet none in Brüssel where, as Gareth says, we have a great(er) objective interest. Note also the Swansea vice-chacellor's remarks today about the importance of EU funds to our universities against even Welsh government cuts. Yet, as I understand it, Jill Evans is the only one of the 4 MEPs who supports sustaining or increasing the EU budget because it's in our national interest.

    Finally, to answer Gareth's point directly, his suggestion of a referendum on independence is merely premature. When the UK media wakes up to Scotland and the debate gets going, we will see a sea-change in public opinion here. (Compare the Yes vote in 1999 (+0.8%) with the majority earlier this year). An axiom of Welsh politics is that people will not want any less than the Scots. Then, when the SNP wins, will we want to be re-incorporated into a "United Kingdom of Southern Britain & Northern Ireland"?

    No more "Great Britain"; the cent will finally drop that it's only the name of the shared island. The political process to get there will also confirm, in my view, that Labour is the prime British nationalist party, partly out of self-interest but also ideologically.