(This article was published by Bylines Cymru)
Is the here and now in Wales as good as it gets for us? It’s hard to find anyone arguing with enthusiasm that the answer is ‘Yes.’ A clear majority are dissatisfied with the current political system in the United Kingdom as a whole; a point evidenced by the World Values Survey breaking the news that only 1 in 6 members of the British public are ‘very satisfied’ with how UK democracy operates. To put this in perspective; that’s on a par with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
So the question really ought to be, ‘what next for Wales?’
That question seems to have been near the forefront of debate over the last couple of weeks with a raft of arguments put forward by a diverse array of activists, commentators and journalists in a string of articles from all sorts of publications. Some as far afield as Australia.
One of the arguments put forward is that of ‘Confederalism.’ Now, many would argue that persuading the majority of Wales to vote for independence is a challenging enough prospect; so how do the supporters of Confederalism think persuading the majority of voters in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England to back their ideas is a more realistic prospect?
In short; it isn’t.
Westminster, whether it be blue or red, have made it clear that they are not in favour of any more substantive devolution. That is not likely to change. Both shades of Westminster are content to ignore the democratic mandate given to the SNP by the Scottish public. What chance is there of Westminster agreeing to surrender power in order to enter into an equal confederation with the Senedd, Holyrood and Stormont (provided the 3 currently devolved nations are even willing, of course)?
The answer is; it just isn’t going to happen. This is just another attempt by soft leaning Unionists to keep the Union going. Don't get me wrong, I believe the ideals behind it are genuine and heartfelt but I don’t think they are realistic.
Lets not forget that England is by far the largest country in the United Kingdom. Will England choose to put themselves in a position in which they could potentially be vetoed by Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland? I doubt it.
Another argument put forward is that of a Federal United Kingdom. These ideas hinge upon England being carved up into smaller regions, along the lines of the old regionalised system for the European Union elections. Would England agree to this? Again, I doubt it. My scepticism is backed up by the fact the North East of England voted against a devolution deal in 2004 by a massive margin. Ultimately, would there ever be a Government elected to Westminster pledging to break up England? No, of course not.
For me, independence provides the most favourable route to securing a future in which Wales can thrive. Look at Slovenia for inspiration. Yes, some of you may scoff at that. But, Slovenia has just surpassed the United Kingdom in terms of average standard of living.
Slovenia gained its independence in 1991, at that time Wales was significantly better off than Slovenia; now the opposite is true. Independence gave Slovenia the freedom to adopt policies that worked for them, proving a smaller economy is more agile and better equipped to serve its population.
Slovenia spent the decades prior to independence as part of Yugoslavia and, prior to that, centuries as part of the Austrian Empire. As per Wales, Slovenia had been ‘unified’ with its much larger neighbours for centuries. Were they too small? Were they too poor?
Wales too could take this path, decoupling itself from a union that just simply isn’t working in its best interests. 200,000 children living in poverty. 90,000 of those are classified as living in absolute poverty. Is that a union that is working for us? My answer is emphatically NO.
I believe our energies are better utilised in pushing for independence and securing Wales the powers it needs to thrive, rather than a desperate (albeit well-meaning) attempt to save the Union. Neither Confederalism or Federalism cut it. I think the time has come to put our hands up and say; the Union isn’t working, park it.
Independence for Wales is all about the future and the positivity that could bring, whilst Westminster is all about clinging to a past that no longer exists.