Politics

Welsh Independence: A Student Debate

By Liam Ketcher and Lewis Reynolds

Against Independence

By Lewis Reynolds


Plaid Cymru and their leader Leanne Wood, citing the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014, support the idea of having a Welsh independence referendum. If Wales was to become an independent country, through a referendum or a wider breakup of the United Kingdom, the effects would be disastrous.

Wales’s economy is not strong enough to support itself, with Wales spending far more than it receives in taxes (Carwyn Jones 2012). These subsidies from the rest of the United Kingdom mean that an independent Wales would have to drastically reduce its spending, raise taxes or face bankruptcy. Furthermore, since the decline of the coal industry, Wales lacks the industrial base to support itself financially. The Welsh agricultural, tourism and steel sectors are not strong enough to fill this gap. This reduction in income would lead to popular institutions and policies being severely impacted or stopped completely in an independent Wales, negatively impacting the quality of life experienced across the nation.

Wales would also have to renegotiate its relations not only with the United Kingdom, but also the rest of the world. As the current Brexit negotiations highlight, this would prove difficult, time consuming and expensive with Wales in most cases having the weaker hand. This could adversely impact the economy of Wales, for example through the implementation of restrictions on the movement of goods (e.g. ‘reintroducing’ the tolls on the Severn Bridge). Many businesses would leave and relocate, worsening the brain drain Wales is already experiencing.

Plaid Cymru highlight that one option for an independent Wales would be to seek readmission into the European Union, where 59.8% of Welsh exports go (Welsh Government 2017). Not only does this seem ironic, leaving one Unitary body where you have a larger voice to one where you will have a very minor voice, it would also cause numerous other issues. Such a move would go against how the Welsh voted in the European Union Referendum in 2016 when 52.5% voted to leave the European Union. To seek readmission could be seen as an unpopular and anti-democratic decision. It would also lead to issues like those currently seen in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland regarding borders, the requirement to adopt the Euro and the risk of Welsh application for membership of the EU being vetoed, potentially isolating Wales from its main export markets.

There are numerous other factors to consider such as defence policy, taxation, the share of the UK national debt Wales would have to accept and a new legal system. When you consider more minor issues such as the need for new passports, the costs of independence would place immense strain on the Welsh economy.

I contend Wales would not fare well if it were to become an independent country. The economic backbone of the nation would be undermined, leading to a severe decline in the quality of life enjoyed by the majority. This is why Wales should not become independent; with the Welsh electorate appearing to realize this with only 6% (BBC 2017) currently supporting the idea of Independence.

Pro Independence By Liam Ketcher

Just over twenty-years ago now, Wales voted in favour of devolution. This meant that some of the decisions that were previously made in Westminster would transfer to the soon to be Welsh Assembly located in Cardiff Bay. Since then, the Welsh Assembly has more than proved that its able to control areas such as agriculture, culture, the economy, education and the Welsh language. It has been a leader in UK politics, as in 2011 Wales became the first UK nation to introduce the 5p charge to all plastic bags, and due to this the number of bags handed out have decreased by 70%. Other changes include the opt-out system of organ donation and more recently the introduction of votes at 16 in council elections. All of these examples, I believe show the positive changes that the Welsh Assembly have made and I think that further devolved powers and even an independent Wales can do a lot more and continue to lead changes in Great Britain and all over the world.

As a country Wales receives more money from the EU than it does from Westminster. However, as a result of the EU Independence Referendum, I now think it’s time for Wales to look at where it stands on the political landscape, and become an independent nation. It’s time to take full control from Westminster since its here in Wales that has the country in its best interest. I believe that only our Welsh AM’s can make Brexit work for Wales.

The EU will continue to fund projects in Wales until 2020. Some of the major projects that have contributed to the Welsh economy are the £3M investment to Ponty Lido. The area has been transformed and has now had more than 50,000 visitors. Money from the EU has also been used to revamp the rail lines in Wales along with the building of Swansea Universities Bay Campus.

This all shows that the EU has cared more for Wales than the UK overall and the Westminster Government has underfunded Wales in my opinion. By becoming an independent nation, we will be able to decide what we do with our taxes and we will be able to spend this money as we chose. When the NHS in Wales is criticised, it is hard for the Assembly to do anything about it because they are limited in what they can do. Again, this shows that although devolution has had some success for Wales, this does not give the country the power to resolve recurring issues such as the Welsh NHS. For this reason, I do believe that an independent Wales is an option for us as we take a step forward to a better, brighter Wales.



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