Chapter 12

But what about........?

Many people will find the idea of independence appealing, but will worry about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Building a new democracy might sound exciting, but most people want to know that their daily lives won’t be turned upside down overnight.

Would I still have access to the same TV and radio programmes?

As the name suggests, the BBC is a British corporation. Your licence fee is collected by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in London, and then handed over to the BBC to fund its programmes. How that money is then divided between the different nations and regions is decided in London, by the BBC’s unitary board. Fourteen directors sit on this board, with only one of them representing Wales.

If Wales became independent, the BBC could decide to stop providing services to Welsh viewers and listeners. If this happened, then the Welsh government would have to decide what should take its place – potentially deciding to set up a Welsh Broadcasting Service. But if the BBC didn’t provide a Welsh service, then it would lose the revenue from Welsh licence fee-payers. A much more likely outcome is that the BBC would be reformed along federal lines. BBC Wales would become a separate legal entity, working alongside BBC England, BBC Scotland and possibly BBC Northern Ireland to provide a service that reflects the different demands of the four nations.

The responsibility for S4C would transfer from the British government to the Welsh government. Commercial television would barely be affected. Sky is available in the Republic of Ireland, as are Virgin Media and YouView. BT’s TV services are also available via Ireland’s Setanta service. There’s no practical reason why any of these services (or future services) wouldn’t be available in an independent Wales. There would also be the opportunity to develop more community-based and not-for-profit media.

What would happen to Welsh sports teams?

Wales is already “independent” in many sports – notably football and rugby – while we also have a strong boxing and cycling heritage. Independence would ensure Welsh Olympic and Paralympic teams, meaning Welsh athletes who are currently denied the chance of competing at the Olympics and Paralympics (because they have to fight for places in Team GB) can realise their dreams.

The most popular sport where Wales doesn’t compete in its own right at the highest level is cricket. It’s actually our own cricket body – Cricket Wales – that is blocking a Welsh cricket team, despite the boost that taking part in the one day and T20 competitions would bring.

As Wales is already “independent” in football, there is no reason why Swansea City, Cardiff City and the other Welsh clubs could not continue to participate in the English pyramid after independence if they so choose.

What would happen to major UK public sector employers in Wales like the DVLA in Swansea, Office for National Statistics (ONS) in Newport and HM Revenue & Customs?

Some jobs might be lost as departments downsize, but Wales would need an equivalent of the DVLA, ONS and HMRC etc. Public sector workers could be redeployed to new departments, such as a Welsh equivalent of the Ministry of Defence or Foreign Office. It is likely enough jobs would be created in new public departments to replace any lost in downsized UK departments.

Could I still use English hospitals?

If you’ve ever been taken ill while on holiday in Europe, you’ll know that you’re able to use the same doctors and hospitals that the locals use. The hospital takes your details, and passes the bill for your care on to the government at home. Post-independence, we could set up a similar system to cover the British Isles. Those travelling back and forth between England and Wales, as well as those living on the border, would be guaranteed easy access to healthcare wherever they happened to be when they fell ill.

What about my local council?

An independent Wales could create a system of meaningful local democracy. Councils could be given constitutional protection, to guard against meddling by central government. They could be allowed to raise their own revenues, and spend local taxes on local priorities. Boundaries could be fixed, with no more pointless re-organisation. Independence is a chance to reinvent Welsh democracy.

 

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