Monday, 16 January 2012

What about Wales

What happens in Scotland will have real consequences for Wales. This blog has flagged this up frequently since Alex Salmond won his majority last May. 
David Cameron’s attempt to wrong foot Salmond by pushing for an early referendum and Salmond’s response has set off the referendum campaign. Salmond now declares it will be Autumn 2014.
So there will be two years of arguments about independence. It is already dominating the headlines and the airwaves of the UK media. 
If this last week is an indication, Scotland's referendum will dominate the news agenda for the next two years. Will any Welsh issue make it on the agenda in this time? Unlikely. 
But Carwyn Jones was right to point out that if Scotland left the union the relationship of those that remained would have to change fundamentally. 
The rump of the UK Parliament after the Scottish MPs were taken out of the equation would consist of 550 MPs. 510 of these would come from England, 30 from Wales and 10 from Northern Ireland.
Then Westminster would cease to be a Parliament of three remaining countries but simply a Parliament for England. And Carwyn Jones's response to such a situation, a demand for more MPs and peers from Wales and Northern Ireland. More politicians? 
Nice try Carwyn, but why would the Tory government want to give in to your demands. To negotiate you have to have something to give and you’ve ruled out independence, so the negotiating cupboard is bare.
Prime Ministers always think of their place in history so if Cameron was to see Scotland break away on his watch that would be a serious blow to his esteem. But once that had happened would he really be worried about Wales. Doubtful.
As Carwyn Jones has already publicly declared “it would not be a good thing for Wales to become independent. Financially it is not in our interest.” 
If this is true, and there are some that would dispute the case, surely it’s an admission  that Wales is a basket case that is wholly dependent on England. 
If that’s the case why, oh why, would Cameron grant Carwyn Jones more MPs and Lords. What would they do? Whinge for more resources? The Prime Minister may be many things but a masochist he is not. 
No, Carwyn Jones had better hope that Salmond looses his touch and that those Scots that want independence remain a minority. 
Opinion polls show that if the referndum was held today only 33% would be in favour with 53% against with another 14% not yet made up their minds. 
But if  a week is a long time in politics, two years is, well, long enough for the polls to change dramatically. 
So rather than whinge to Cameron for more seats Carwyn Jones would be better employed leaning on Darling and Brown to start campaigning hard, in their homeland for the Union.  

If they fail, the English might start questioning whether they would want Wales in their smaller Kingdom. 
Surely, now is the time for the Welsh Government to address the question of what it should do, if it had to go it alone.


  1. an excellent post Gareth, if the last week has done anything its forced Carwyn Jones into thinking and reacting to events in Scotland and its clear he's not comfortable on this territory.

    Carwyn's biggest problem is that unlike Alex Salmond and even Peter Robinson is that Wales is rarely his first priority (unless he's bashing the Tories) and he's shown over the weekend that he still can't move past the Welsh as dependents mentality.

    Also playing on his mind with the loss of Scotland is without Wales and Scotland as a springboard an overall UK majority will be difficult for Labour. Combine that with a long standing pathological hatred of nationalists and its difficult to see Labour being able to focus on something other than their survival in the run up to the Scottish vote, not good news for Wales.

  2. What happens in Scotland from now on isn't so very important. The majority of the citizens of England have already made a decision. And that decision is that this Union doesn't work in their best interests anymore. Changes will have to be made.

  3. I hope you are correct Kp

  4. Excellent post Gareth and full of important questions. What I can't understand is that if the UK Government is so sure the Welsh economy is in such a mess why don't they publish the figures? If I were on the unionist side of the debate with figures showing a massive and increasing Welsh deficit I would publish and put the nail in the coffin of any Independence discussion.

    The fact that they don't, intrigues me. We know that through mismanagement and exploitation the Welsh economy must be in a mess, it would be a miracle if they weren't.But what if just like the McCrone report on Scotland in 1975 the figures were much better than anticipated? That would certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons! Why do you reckon they are so reticent to publish the figures, and shouldn't we in Wales be pushing to get them out for public discussion?

    After all forewarned is forearmed! Message to Imperial UK government : Publish and be damned!!!

  5. Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour playing catch-up again.

    Followed by the inevitable whinge.

    If more power for Wales if Scotland gets more power, why isn't it good to have more power for Wales in its own right?

  6. Scotland will not vote for independence, it will vote for devo max. That will also have consequences for Wales, which may trigger calls - over time - for a referendum so that Wales can adopt similar arrangements (i.e. complete autonomy within the union). Whether us Welsh would be so enthusiastic about taking on more devolved powers as the Scots is a different question altogether - after all, while we have many similarities to our Celtic cousins, we also have very different histories.

    Genuinely interesting times!

  7. Fascinating contribution from Britnot. I like the idea of the figures being better than expected, but our post-industrial legacy simply means that the economy and infrastructure here is in no fit state to produce high enough revenues. Where I think Britnot might have a point is that if the Treasury or whomever published a real, transparent picture of the situation in Wales, they might then be expected- seeing as we are meant to be benefiting from UK membership- to suggest how being part of Britain is going to help us get out of the mess we're in. Let's not hold our collective breath!

  8. WR:

    The UK is heavily dependent on the casino economy of the City. Apart from that, England itself is even worse off in terms of manufacturing than Wales. It's only a matter of time before the City hits the buffers. Then what?

    Wales needs to get out before it happens.

    Westminster was England's parliament before 1707, and it didn't change at all after the Union. It remains England's parliament where its MPs today can outvote all the others by over four-and –a-half times. As far as Wales is concerned if the Scots leave it won't make a lot of difference. True we'll have perpetual Tory government, but the Labour lot are tories too, so what's the difference?

    Carwyn will find himself between a rock and a hard place, whatever the Scots decide, if he still leads the largest party in the Assembly in 2016. The Scots aren't going to accept less than fiscal autonomy, even if they can't swallow independence in one go. It’s possible that by 2016, Plaid will be in the running again, if it makes the right choice this spring.

    Where does that leave the unionists? I believe the Tories would prefer the Scots leave than undertake the UK-wide fundamental constitutional reforms which independence lite or devo max would necessitate. Scottish independence would allow the current political and electoral structure to remain essentially the same in the rump UK. To the Tories Wales would be largely an irrelevance, much as it is now.

    Labour in Wales would have a difficult choice, remain in a permanent Tory-dominated rump UK with a weak Assembly or seek much more autonomy, or even independence. Labour in England would never regain power. I can’t see the party here accepting the status quo.

    I'm looking forward to autumn 2014 - might even offer my services to the SNP during the run-up to their referendum.

    These are interesting times. I predict that the UK will be very different in ten years , if it exists at all.