This booklet aims to answer your questions about Welsh independence in a simple, honest and concise way. It is aimed at those who are curious, doubtful or even sceptical. Our aim in this guide is to be ‘straight-talking’: to be clear about the facts. It will give you the information that you need to be more confident about an independent Wales, and about influencing others.
We believe the time has come for a full debate on independence for Wales. Why?
You might think that Wales is too small to be independent, but some of the most prosperous, most equal, and happiest countries in the world are small nations. What makes the people of Wales any different from the Slovakians, Danes or the Irish? Isn’t it simple common sense that all decisions affecting Wales should be made in Wales? Not some of them, all of them. Wales isn’t perfect, and there are plenty of problems that need to be tackled. But wouldn’t it be easier to tackle these problems if our government was a Welsh one, totally focused on Welsh needs? At the moment we are regarded by Westminster as a minor part; Westminster’s policies are built around the needs of others. It stands to reason that Westminster’s policies are not put in place to benefit Wales, as we’ve seen during the course of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic. If an institution has historically failed to treat your needs adequately, surely the natural step is to form your own institution and take hold of your own fate. Independence is an opportunity to build a better Wales.
Wales is different
Many times we’ve heard people say: “Wales? Isn’t that just part of England?” Wales has a lot in common with the rest of the countries and regions of the UK, but we also know that there is much that makes us different. Wales has its own distinct politics, values and worldview; its own culture, histories and language. These are shaped by people from all backgrounds, whether from one of Britain’s oldest multicultural communities in Cardiff’s Butetown, from the descendents of those who moved to Wales during the industrial revolution, or the “New Welsh” from Europe and the rest of the world who’ve made Wales their home during the 21st Century. Yet all too often Wales is treated as a region of England. Independence isn’t about creating division; it’s about celebrating our unique place in the world and becoming a proper part of the international family of nations.
Get the government that you vote for
Welsh MPs make up 6 per cent of the House of Commons. In general elections, no matter how Wales votes, we get the Westminster government that England wants. Since 1945 the vote of the people of Wales at UK general elections only influenced the political map of the UK for two years, between 1964 and 1966.
Wales’ voice in Westminster is a small one, and getting smaller. The people of Wales currently send 40 MPs to Westminster, with the Boundary Commission proposing that this number is reduced to as few as 31. The UK is, and will always be, an unequal union. The people of Wales need to take control of our own destiny.
No more excuses from Cardiff Bay
Whilst progress has been made in some areas since devolution, Wales remains the poorest of the UK nations, and improvements in devolved areas of Government such as health and education have been frustratingly slow. There is an argument to be made that genuine, sustainable change can only be made by a Welsh Government that has all the levers of power at its disposal. How can you have a truly joined-up approach to health and social care, for instance, if welfare spending and full powers over taxation are not within your jurisdiction? A Welsh Government empowered to think of itself as such, rather than perpetuating the ‘devolved administration’ mindset, would be free to be more ambitious for Wales. Independence gives Wales the tools to turn our fortunes around, but it also means that we can hold our own politicians accountable and force them to be more ambitious for our nation’s future.
It’s a risk, but the rewards are great. Lots of people say that independence is a nice idea, but Wales could never afford it. And yes, becoming an independent nation would come with risks. Nothing in life is risk-free, especially things worth having; but people take the plunge because they want a better life for themselves. An increasing number of people are starting to see that the debate about independence focuses too much on the risk, and not on the rewards. This is a subtle change of perspective, but the result is empowering.
Wales is rich in resources and has the potential to be at the forefront of efforts to tackle climate change, but we don’t make the most of those resources. Independence would open new doors for Wales, allowing the people of Wales to build an economy based on Welsh priorities, not British ones. We can build a fairer society to right the historic and present injustices faced by people of colour, the LGBTQ+ community, disabled people, the estimated 30 per cent of children in Wales living in poverty and other long-neglected and marginalised groups. We need to acknowledge the risks, without talking down Wales’ potential. Given our powerlessness under the present system, we might ask whether the worst risk of all is to allow things to remain as they are.
A new beginning
Since the loss of our heavy industries, Wales has been in a state of depression. No matter who is in power in Westminster, things have gone backwards in Wales. Our economy is failing the majority, our declining educational institutions reflect wider challenges in society and a lack of political accountability. Too many of our young people are facing a future bereft of genuine hope and ambition. We can’t rely on others to turn this situation around. It’s time for the people of Wales to take the initiative, and work together to create a new nation. No one else will do it for us. It is up to us to write the next chapter of Welsh history.
|Introduction||Why isn’t devolution enough, and what difference would independence make?|