Wednesday 31 January 2007

We should make our own decisions - by Glyndwr Erasmus

We have contacted many of Plaid Cymru's candidates for the forthcoming Welsh Assembly elections, asking for their views on the issue of Welsh independence. We have already posted the comments of Plaid Cymru's candidate in Montgomeryshire - David Thomas and also the views of Plaid Cymru's top candidate in the South West region Bethan Jenkins. Now it's the turn of Owen Glyndwr Erasmus, Regional List candidate in the South East Region.

I believe in Welsh independence on two levels, emotive and practical.

At the emotive level, I am Welsh. I have travelled to many places in the world and spoken to many people. I always have a problem explaining what I am. Very few people have heard of Wales as a separate entity and therefore assume I am English. There follows a Geography and History lesson which eventually results in some understanding. I would like to say I am Welsh, from Wales , and have it recognised immediately.

At the practical level, I once read about the unification of Italy . The article stated that a poor region in a large economy will always get relatively poorer. This seems to me to be the case of Wales within the United Kingdom . There are reasons for this.

UK wide economic policy cannot suit all parts of the State equally and the policy decided on never has Wales as its targeted area. Therefore we always come off second best. An independent Wales could set the economy to suit itself, other small Nations do this to good effect and prosper accordingly.

Prosperity is generated around the National Capital, that's where the plum jobs financed by our taxes are positioned and where other highly paid jobs are also situated in Head Offices of major organisations. This prosperity percolates outwards from London into the South East region. A real capital in Cardiff would bring these benefits to Wales and help to improve the whole economy.

Finally, we should make our own decisions, we are grown ups, why would we want anyone else making our decisions for us.

Owen Glyndwr Erasmus, Plaid Cymru South East Regional List candidate.

Tuesday 30 January 2007

An Independent Wales in the EU

Another of the unionists arguments against Welsh independence is that we would find ourselves outside of the EU, and would have to join the queue of applicant countries which would leave Wales isolated for years.

This is just another myth which is being peddled to keep us in line, but which is easily dismissed, as we would have the full backing of international law, in the shape of:

The Vienna Convention on Succession of States in respect of Treaties 1978

Which deals with how international treaties are to be applied to newly independent states. In particular, the following article seems to sum things up nicely:

Article 34 -Succession of States in cases of separation of parts of a State
1.When a part or parts of the territory of a State separate to form one or more States, whether or not the predecessor State continues to exist:

(a) any treaty in force at the date of the succession of States in respect of the entire territory of the predecessor State continues in force in respect of each successor State so formed;

or to put it as simply as I can:

If Wales splits from the UK, irrespective of whether the UK would still exist, any international treaty, eg relating to EU membership, would remain in force relating to bothWales and England/UK.

The Convention also gives us the right to withdraw from such treaties if we choose, subject to suitable notice, and we could for example choose to leave NATO. The Convention also gives us the right to notify that we want to be bound by only part of the treaty, and we could for example opt out of fishing quotas (just to use a hypothetical example).

The important thing is that we would be deemed to be already covered by the EU treaty, and that it would be up to us to choose our future within it – this is not a decision that the remaining UK would make on our behalf.

Sunday 28 January 2007

So we'd lose all international influence if we went our own way?

Or at least that’s what Peter Hain says.

Let’s examine the contention carefully. He’s actually claiming that we have more influence (whatever that means) on international affairs as a small component of a much larger state, than we would have as a state in our own right.

The Republic of Ireland is roughly similar to Wales in terms of population & size (they have a population of roughly 4,000,000 – we have a population of roughly 3,000,000). The external body that’s most important to them & us is the European Parliament. We have 4 MEPs, they have 13. They have a seat on the Council of Ministers, we don’t. They get to chair the EC (and thus set the agenda) when their turn comes round, we don’t.

If we take a wider perspective the story’s pretty much the same. They have a seat in the UN, we don’t. They’ll get a seat on the Security Council when their turn comes round, we won’t. If they think that some country or other is worth influencing they’re free to open an embassy with full diplomatic status there. We can’t.

It’s difficult to know exactly what Hain is saying. I suppose that what he really means is that the UK has more influence internationally than Ireland. This is probably true, but that influence doesn’t often help us. Although Wales has never come close to voting Tory since the commencement of universal suffrage, we usually end up with Tory governments. So the normal state of affairs is that we have little influence on the international policies of our own government.

And of course there’s the fact that the UK has historically been more likely than virtually anyone else to wield it’s international influence by means of armed conflict. But that’s another story.

Friday 26 January 2007

Once countries have tasted independence there's no way back.

Two more excellent letters in the Western Mail over the last few days:

Jan 26 2007, Western Mail

SIR - If it were true that we would be better off in the UK vis-a-vis worldwide representation and influence than as an independent state, then that must also apply to other small nations.

How come then, the Republic of Ireland hasn't begged to rejoin the UK and the Baltic states, the Ukraine, Georgia etc, haven't begged to go back in with Moscow, in a reactivated Soviet Union?No way on earth! Because once countries have tasted independence and enjoyed all the privileges and freedoms which come with it - there's no way back.

As an independent country, we could become a full member of the European Union, have the Euro as our currency, have a delegation at the European Central Bank, have EU Welsh passports, have the status of EU working language accorded to Welsh, something the UK refused to do! Also, we could join the United Nations and Welsh would become a recognised language there too.

One of the most striking freedoms independence would give to individuals, would be the right to call themselves Welsh abroad, to be Welsh passport holders and not to have to hide their true nationality behind a bastardised, concocted one.

It matters not what lies Hain, Blair and Brown spew out at us Scotland is now on the verge of independence and Labour are running scared as never before - panicking in the process.

Let's not be bought off cheaply by the St Athan nonsense, as most of the 5,000+ jobs will doubtless be filled by people from across the border. Now is the time for Plaid Cymru to start selling independence to the Welsh people, instead of sitting on their laurels waiting for the people to lead!

Vale View, Tredegar, Blaenau Gwent

Jan 24 2007, Western Mail

SIR - Instead of contesting the May elections, Plaid Cymru might be better employed supporting the Scottish National Party's bid for power. If the SNP is successful then independence will be on the agenda for Wales as well as Scotland. Otherwise, Wales might be the very last country in the world to achieve constitutional freedom, if ever!

All this is anathema to Gordon Brown for whom every nationalist vote is a nail in his political coffin, which is why he resorts to old Labour scaremongering, that independence for Scotland (and Wales) threatens the break-up of the United Kingdom. Besides the fact that the UK is a contrivance, it has no real purpose other than to serve the glorified interests of Brown and the Westminster political establishment, so the sooner it is dissolved the better.

But what is particularly disgraceful about Brown's latest scaremongering is that he attempts to equate constitutional independence with economic independence, whereas anyone with a whiff of intelligence knows that no newly-independent nation has ever contemplated the latter. Nevertheless, Labour's bogeyman will be paraded around the hustings in May to frighten voters into believing that an independent Wales and Scotland will starve to death.

Ten years after the very same arguments failed to stop devolution, I hope the electorate is strong enough not to be blinded by Brown's "balkanisation" scam.

In fact, this was not the most astute comparison for him to use when talking of the threat to the Union. The Balkan states were created after the break up of another empire, Turkey. Today all, apart from one, are independent, the smallest Montenegro with a population of just 750,000. None of these put economic considerations before their independence. They must pity Scotland and Wales!

Usk Road, Tredunnoc, Gwent

The Cost of Dependence - by Ted Jones

Another good post for you, this time by Ted Jones a political boffin and keen fisherman who is looking forward to his retirement. :-)

The Cost of Dependence

Unionist politicians always try and talk down Wales with their scaremongering about our dependence upon subsidy from Westminster. Peter Hain comes up with a rounded figure of £1000per head, conveniently neglecting the fact that if Wales had grown at the modest rate of UK growth over the last generation, then each person would be £1000 richer in terms of GVA. If we had matched EU growth, then each person in Wales would be £4000 richer. And if Wales had matched the Republic of Ireland each person would be an astonishingly £19,000 richer.

The reality of the situation is somewhat different of course. In real terms wealth levels in Wales is in free fall. GVA in the European Objective 1/Convergance Funding areas is only 65% of the UK average. In hard figures this means that in most of Wales GVA per head is £11,126 whilst the UK average £17,677. Most worryingly, the trend is downward.To put things in context two hours down the road in London GVA is at 140% compared to the UK average – clearly portraying the wealth inequities caused by the prioritisation of the service sector of the South East of England by the London parties, and their clear failure to compose let alone implement a genuine regional economic policy.

Labour despite a decade in power, far from addressing the infamous north-south divide has exacerbated the divergence. So when the London parties harp on next about how Wales is to poor and weak to achieve its potential – ask them exactly what are the economic benefits for the people of Wales in being ruled by a fiscal and economic strategy that works against the key components of our economic make up. Ask them how after ten years most of Wales continues to be amongst the poorest regions of the whole of the EU – despite the inclusion of 10 new member state, most of which had to endure half a century of Soviet totalitarianism.

Thursday 25 January 2007

The Economic Case for Welsh Independence - by David Thomas

The following is an excellent post by David Thomas, Plaid Cymru's Montgomeryshire Candidate at the Welsh Assembly elections in May, that appeared first on his PLAID4MALDWYN blog.

The Economic Case for Welsh Independence

With polls showing 52% of Scots in favour of independence and 58% of people living in England in favour of Scottish independence maybe it is time to think again about the economic scenario should Wales become “independent” of the rest of the UK. I say “independent” because no country is really independent these days and the term tends to conjure up images of complete separation and isolation. The UK, along with all the other countries in the EU, has ceded some of its legal independence to the European Commission and has ceded other rights to the UN. It is also a signatory to a number of international agreements and has binding terms of operation with the G8 group and the World Bank and IMF so not even the UK acts completely “independently” in all it tries to do. By “independent” I simply imply that Wales would be a full member of both the EU and the UN and would negotiate its position in any external concords. But crucially it means that wealth created and taxes raised here in Wales could be spent exclusively in Wales.

Size Does Matter – Small is Good!

It is not the size of a country which determines its success. Eight of the ten richest countries in the world, including all 5 Nordic countries, have populations of less than 10m. Slovenia (pop 2m) is already richer than Wales and Luxembourg (450,000) enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the EU. In Ireland (pop 4m) in the 1960s living standards were two thirds lower than those in Britain, only 20% went to Higher Education and there was mass emigration because of poverty yet by the late 1990s Ireland enjoyed a higher standard of living than Britain because it maximised its potential and optimised its position as a small country. Small countries are more agile and can respond more quickly to global opportunities, small countries are more cohesive, information flows more quickly and they have more of what economists call social and network capital. Small countries can also clearly identify their interests and tend to guard them fiercely. In addition natural resources (though Wales has plenty of these) are no longer essential to a successful economy and distance is no longer a determining factor for profit making (at least in “information” industries).

The Legacy of Direct Rule

The 1536 Act of Union abolished Welsh laws and effectively created a single country of EnglandandWales (Scotland voluntarily joined the Union in a looser sense in 1707). From 1536 until 1999 Wales was basically under “direct rule” from Westminster where its MPs were hopelessly outnumbered when it came to voting on national interests. The Welsh Office was established in 1963 which introduced some decentralisation into Wales but it only administered the decisions already made in Westminster. The 1999 National Assembly for Wales brought about a small element of devolution but only some matters were devolved to Cardiff and the decision-making was confined to secondary legislation.

The net effect of centuries of “remote control” has been a scandalous under-investment in Welsh public services and a woeful neglect of its historic problems including the legacy of the extraction industries. The GVA (gross value added) per capita is now £3000 or 22% less than the UK average and still declining. Wales’ long-term growth from 1972 – 2002 was 16th, i.e. bottom, of the EU countries, with Ireland and Luxembourg, two of the smallest countries at the top and its projected growth to 2013 is the lowest of all the UK regions.

Will Things Ever Get Any Better?

Is it inevitable that Wales will continue indefinitely as the “poor man of Europe”? For the second time in 6 years the Valleys and West Wales have been considered so poor that they have been given Objective One money from Europe to try to lift them from the chronic cycle of unemployment and deprivation. On a crude level it is probably true to say that Wales has 5% of the UK population and generates about 4% but consumes about 6% of its wealth so on the surface it looks as if Wales is relying on “subsidies” from the rest of the UK to keep it afloat but there are a number of assumptions here which need to be challenged.

First it has to be said that while the current situation makes Wales look like a “debtor” nation (and, it should be remembered, most nations, except for China, are) historically Wales has generated vast amounts of wealth for the UK exchequer which have been spent outside Wales. One can only guess at the billions of pounds (on today’s levels) of tax which have been levied in Wales in the past when Coal was King. The first million-pound cheque was signed in the Coal Exchange in Cardiff in 1913 and, had Wales been able to spend the taxes raised here exclusively in Wales, we would have been like present-day Norway – a small country enjoying a very high standard of living on the basis of having natural resources which the whole world wanted.

Secondly, historically and still today, natural resources such as water, electricity and forestry are “exported” to England with no identifiable taxation returning to Wales.

Thirdly, it also has to be said that it doesn’t matter how much “subsidy” Wales appears to receive from the rest of the UK no amount of money will ever, ever compensate for the tragic and avoidable loss of innocent life on 21 October 1966 when 114 children and 28 adults were engulfed in a tide of coal waste in Aberfan.

Coming to the present, however, it is not inevitable that there be a perceived gap between what Wales puts into and what it gets out of the UK.

First, the government itself admits that there are “no meaningful statistics” about the tax collected in Wales apart from personal income tax – nobody has any idea how much corporate tax, VAT or other taxes such as vehicle licence is raised in Wales because it all goes to London before it is redistributed to Wales. Better figures exist for Scotland but even there it has recently been calculated that Scotland was in “credit” to the UK by £300m last year. This is particularly interesting as Scotland receives public spending per person of £7346 each year compared with Wales’ £6901, England’s £5940 and a massive £7945 for N Ireland. Wales is quite possibly “richer” than the figures on personal wages and income tax suggest.

Secondly, it should be possible for Wales to increase its wealth by following Ireland’s example in its economic miracle and cutting corporation tax. This would attract firms and compensate somewhat for the physical remoteness of Wales from major markets and generate more corporation tax, jobs and, hence, income tax. An independent Wales would also probably join the Eurozone (as Ireland) which would give a further impetus to businesses.

Thirdly, Welsh tax payers’ money is currently being used to “subsidise” UK projects which Wales really has no interest in. Wales has no need of nuclear power and the Assembly has voted against any new power stations (though is powerless to stop them being build in Wales because the decision rests with Westminster). The UK government, however, is setting aside £75bn for decommission costs for the new generation of stations of which Wales’ share is nearly £4bn. It is inconceivable that an independent Wales would want to share in the new Trident nuclear deterrent so we would receive £1.75bn back from that. An independent Wales would probably also baulk at having to contribute 5% of the £32bn the UK spends on defence each year. The UK government is currently paying £161bn for PFI (Private Finance Initiative) schemes, almost all of which are in England. Wales should receive a rebate of £8bn. Given that the Welsh Assembly receives only £14bn from the UK in the first place this already amounts to virtually a year’s budget and some of it would recur each year.

Fourthly, it is true to say that the UK government does spend money in Wales of course. The DVLA in Swansea organises the collection of car tax for the whole country and there are UK armed forces stationed and training in Wales. The Patent Office for the UK is based in Newport and the government may shortly be sending a lot of jobs to St Athan – its biggest investment ever in Wales. Historically, though, the government has invested nothing like the money Wales should have received according to its population or its “need”. In Defence, for example, 85% of government money is spent in the south-east region of England.

“Wales Can’t Survive Outside The UK”

Of course nobody knows whether Wales would prosper economically as an independent country or wither on the vine but there is not one of England’s former colonies from the USA to India or Hong Kong which is banging on the door and begging to be ruled once again by the mandarins in Westminster. Wales has enough expertise to succeed and is just the right size to carve out a number of “niche” markets for itself. Even coal, of which there are millions of tons left to be extracted, could once again become a source of wealth for Wales with the development of “clean coal” power generation. Wealth could be increased and need could be decreased as the ill health legacy of heavy industries wanes and the workforce becomes better educated as Wales' curriculum and assessment policies are currently almost entirely dictated by Westminster.

20-20 Vision

If I was to be asked ‘Is Wales ready for independence’, then in all honesty I would have to answer – No - not yet. But all that we are lacking is a little time – time in which to develop our national institutions and in which to become more confident in our own abilities.

If you look at all of the recently independent European states, they all enjoyed considerable autonomy prior to independence, typically within some form of federal structure. They were already managing most of their internal affairs, and it was not a huge step to finally break free - not dissimilar to the situation Scotland finds itself in today.

By contrast Wales has been consistently held back by the UK Government, and today many decisions which should be made in Wales are still controlled by London, but this is now gradually changing, and we are catching up with Scotland. I suggest the following roadmap for completing our journey to independence:

2007 - 2011
The new Assembly settlement enables us to progressively transfer more and more powers to Wales, and we should seize on every opportunity to take control of our own affairs. At the same time we need to make sure that all remaining UK functions, are accounted for on a Wales-only basis so that we have a full understanding of our finances. We also need to start to discuss independence openly.

2011 - 2015
It has already been suggested that a referendum be held in 2011 to upgrade our Assembly to a full law-making Parliament. This should be won comfortably (it would probably be won if held today) and we will then have caught up with Scotland’s position in 1999. We then need a few more years to learn to use these new powers, and we will then be ready for independence

2015 - 2020
The following Senedd elections in 2015 should be fought on the issue of independence. Even with a pro-independence Government in Cardiff, London would almost certainly insist on another referendum – but which should be winnable, especially as we would be following in Scotland’s footsteps.

It may take a few years more or less, but I believe that achieving independence by 2020 is a realistic achievable target and this is my vision.

An article by Jeremy Page and Richard Beeston in the Times on the 03/06/06 also suggested that Wales could become independent by 2020.

Monday 22 January 2007

Books on Independence for Wales and other small nations

Pe Bai Cymru'n Rhydd - Gwynfor Evans.

A great little book (in Welsh, no English version I'm afraid) by the late, great nationalist and internationalist, Gwynfor Evans.

Written on the eve of the independence of the Baltic states in 1991 it shows what Wales could achieve were it independent like other small nations - from Norway to Estonia. Very readable and so a good start if you've got a decent level of Welsh.

It just shows how Britishness and the British nationalism of the Labour party has kept Wales back, wasting the whole of the 20th century with virtually nothing to show for it. A great little book of the type Plaid Cymru should be producing today. Time for an updated version in both languages methinks!

The Breakdown of Nations - Leopold Kohr

Published in 1957 by Austrian-born but great friend of Wales, and lecturer at the university in Aberystwyth Leopold Kohr (why isn't there a plaque to him on his Baker St home in the town?), this is a book before its time.

It puts Welsh independence (and interdependence) within the context of a Europe which has broken down the old 'nation' states. When one compares one of Kohr's maps with the current geo-political situation in Eastern Europe it's surprising how correct he was.

The good news is that the 'submerged' small nations of Western Europe are catching up. Despite the rather misleading title (it should read 'breakdown of 19th century nation-states') it's an intelligent but readable book. It demonstrates the intellectual and moral bankrupcy of the philosophy of the 'Big Nation' that the British nationalists of the Labour party hold so dear to their hearts.

More arrogance from Governor Hain

An independent Wales would "leave Wales isolated and irrelevant." - Wales and Northern Ireland Secretary, 'Governor' Peter Hain.

Responding to the Wales on Sunday newspaper's opinion poll which showed an increase in support for independence, Peter Hain again displayed the insulting and bullying arrogance of his British Nationalist credentials.

Irrelevant? Why would an independent Wales be 'irrelevant'? Irrelevant to what? To Britain? To the world?

Every other independent nation is relevant to the international community. Why would Wales not be? Why do Peter Hain and his British nationalist stalwarts consider the Welsh as inferior, unequal and unfit to govern their own affairs?

Is Wales relevant now, as a sub-ordinate part of the United Kingdom? Where is Wales' prominence? Where is Wales' fair share of recognition, status and economic growth?

And if Wales were relevant now, why would she stop being relevant having gained independence?

Isolated? How could Wales possibly be any more isolated than any other independent nation? Is Denmark isolated? Is Ireland? Is Luxembourg? Is Finland? Lithuania? Latvia? Bulgaria, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, India? Is Italy, France, America and indeed the United Kingdom, isolated?

So what does Hain mean by 'isolation'? Would England dig a trench the length of Offa's Dyke to keep us apart from the rest of this island? Would England impose economic sanctions - or even roll the tanks in? Would the EU make us the North Korea of Europe?

Come on, Peter Hain. If you don't support Welsh independence then at least treat Wales with respect. Award us the dignity of a mature and measured argument rather than this continuous conquistadorian nonsense. This simplistic, dissmissive, patronising patter is both insulting and nauseating, and reveals a superior imperialist attitude towards us inferior, notionless natives.

Who do you think you are? And what do you think we are?

Babytalk breeds spoon-fed nation

"Independence will lead to the Balkanisation of Britain" - Wales and Northern Ireland Secretary, 'Governor' Peter Hain.

We talk to our children in a language we assume reflects their comprehension of the world around them. What we tell them is what they believe, amd they believe what we tell them.

This kind of babytalk is what the Welsh nation is spoon-fed by the Labour administration on a daily basis. Inherent in such language as that used by Governor Hain above is the notion that we Welsh are little children who have no capability for an independent comprehension of our own.

That we are expected to believe that Britain will become an ethnic warzone if the Union is dismantled is both patronising, arrogant and insulting. But it is just the kind of spoon-fed propaganda that breeds both an apathetic, negative and defeatist attitude to our own capabilities, and a blind acceptance of the lie that we could never make it alone. While small sovereign nations across the world govern their own affairs, and prosper, here in Wales 'Mummy knows best.'

Last week, as the findings of the BBC's opinion poll on independence were published, BBC Wales' 'news' programme, Wales Today, 'went out and about in the country to ask the nation what they thought of independence.' As usual, they never found their way further north than a stone's throw from the M4 corridor. And so it was, in Pontypridd - an Unionist Labour Party stonghold - that they went 'out and about to ask the nation' if they supported independence.

And it was here, in Pontypridd, that one street respondent's reaction clearly demonstarted the end result of decades of spoon-fed Labour babytalk. A local lady was asked if she thought independence would be a good thing for Wales. Pointing to the run-down street behind her she replied "No, we couldn't survive without London could we? What would we do without Britain - I mean, just look at the place, look how bad it is, it's all run-down!"

No, she wasn't being sarcastic, and the irony of what she said wasn't pointed out to her.

If this would be the woman's view, and the streets around her still rundown, after a few decades of an independent Welsh state, her reply would make some reasonable sense. But being that the place is rundown and economically deprived because of centuries of British rule, her response was typically irrational, and demonstrated the subservient, childish mentality of a spoon-fed nation; a perfect example of the perverse comprehension of our position, surroundings and status.

It is not too absurd to surmise that this person and thousands like her, do indeed swallow everything that Mother Hain and Uncle Rhodri feed them. No wonder Hain feels he can get away with such hysterics as his 'Balkanisation of Britain' blurb.

32% in favour of independence

Political arrogance boosts support for independence

Despite Governor Hain's amateur dramatics about the 'Balkanisation of Britain' and his arrogant dissmissals of Wales' capabilities as a nation, support for Welsh independence is growing, according to a new poll.

The latest poll, conducted by the Wales on Sunday newspaper (21/01/07), shows support for independence at 32%, with a minority of respondents - 49% - opposed to independence.

The telephone poll asked 500 people - 125 in each of the north, mid, south-west and south-east areas of Wales.

This shows support for independence - now that it is suddenly debated publicly following the BBC's poll last week - on the increase.

This clearly demonstrates the need for Welsh independence to be on the political agenda so that the case for Wales can be put to the people.

The Price of Independence - 5

and finally

Capital Settlement
When simply considering current finances, Welsh independence looks feasible, but it is when you consider the settlement of capital assets that things start to look interesting.

There is an international law called the Vienna Convention on Successor States which to summarize states that:

Wales is entitled to receive, at no cost:
  • all immovable UK assets (eg buildings) on Welsh soil (at no cost)
  • an equitable share of all movable UK assets (eg gold reserves, military hardware etc) in line with its contributions towards them (ie taxes paid)
  • an equitable share of all UK assets overseas (eg embassies)
But on the downside, Wales would be responsible for:
  • an equitable share of national debt,but taking into account the transfer of assets and its associated debt
To put it more simply, Wales is a 5% “shareholder” in the UK and as such is entitled to 5% of government assets (and also 5% of national debt). But for practical purposes, not all assets can be transferred – eg Channel Tunnel, Windscale Nuclear facility etc and Wales would not be responsible for any debt associated with these assets. Similarly, where assets could be transferred but are not, eg Trident Submarines, then there would need to be an equivalent reduction in debt.

There would need to be some horse-trading of assets and debt, and it is likely that Wales will only take possession of say 3% of UK assets, but also only 3% of debt. This is very significant, as it would not only reduce national debt repayments but would have a direct impact on current expenditure, as it would reduce depreciation and interest payments.

UK budget depreciation was £15.7 billion in 2003/04, which would represent a cost to the Welsh budget of £0.8 billion if 5% of assets were transferred, but only £0.5 billion if 3% of assets were transferred. There would also be a corresponding reduction in interest payments across all departments, which would reduce projected expenditure by around £0.5 billion, to £20.0 Billion

Final Figures
Ok, if you are still following these threads, I predict that the Current budget for an Independent Wales (based on 2003/2004 figures) would look something like this:

Revenue - £20.4 Billion
Expenditure - £20.0 Billion
Nett Revenue - £0.4 Billion
Less Depreciation - £0.5 Billion
Surplus(Deficit) - (£0.1 Billion)

OK, these figures do not quite break even, but the deficit of only £0.1 Billion has to be compared with the current UK deficit of £21 Billion which is equivalent to £1.0 Billion for Wales.

To those of you who question whether we could afford an independent Wales - I respond how can we afford not to!!

The Price of Independence - 4

So how would we pay for this??

Government Revenue

In 2003/2004 the UK government revenue (in Billions of Pounds) was made up as follows:

Customs & Excise...................55.9
National Rates........................18.7
Income Tax.............................154.7
National Insurance.................78.7
Council Tax..............................19.0
Operating Surplus..................18.3

Contrary to what some people think, we pay our fair share of taxes in Wales. This will be generally proportionate to the UK revenue, but with some exceptions: In particular, the money received from VAT will be reduced due to lower economic activity, and Income Tax will be lower due to lower salary levels. Assuming that these particular figures are reduced to 90% of the UK levels, then the Welsh figures could be projected as:

Customs & Excise………..2.7
National Rates……………..0.9
Income Tax…………………..6.7
National Insurance……….3.8
Council Tax…………………..0.9
Operating Surplus………..0.9
Total:…………………………. £20.4 Billion

The figures will need much more detailed analysis and checking than I have been able to do, as there is very little data available to support a breakdown by individual country. But the initial headline figures are saying that an independent Wales would generate almost all of the revenue (£20.4 Billion) than it would require (£20.5 Billion).

These figures are genuine and realistic, but it is not yet the end of the story………...

(almost there)

The Price of Independence - 3

Projected Expenditure:

In 2003/2004 the UK Health budget was £72 Billion, or £1,210 per head, which allowing for inflation would be around £1,285 today. On this basis, Wales’s proportionate Health budget would be £3.8 Billion. In a written question to Parliament on 25 Jun 2006, it was stated that the NHS expenditure per head for England, Scotland & Wales was as follows: England £1,228; Scotland £1,374; Wales £1,154. Contrary to popular misconception, it would appear that the cost of health services in Wales is actually cheaper than the UK average, and on this basis, Wales's health budget could be reduced to 3.5 Billion. However, I would prefer to increase this and will use the proportional figure instead, ie £3.8 Billion

There are contradictory statistics published by the Institute of Fiscal Studies – Survey of Public Spending in UK - which states a slightly higher health costs for Wales, but I believe that this includes programs which are included within the Social Security budget so I will deal with this there.

In 2003/04 the UK Transport budget, was £15.9 Billion, or £266 per head, which would result in a proportionate Welsh budget of £0.75 Billion. However, Wales does not have a sophisticated transport infrastructure with no major airports or ports, and this figure could be reduced significantally. The Institute of Fiscal Studies reported that Welsh expenditure in this area was around 75% of the UK figure, resulting in a Welsh budget of £0.6 Billion

In 2003/04 the UK Education budget, was £59.5 Billion, or £992 per head, which would result in a proportionate Welsh budget of £2.9 Billion. The Institute of Fiscal Studies reported that Welsh expenditure in this area was around 4% higher than the UK figure, resulting in a Welsh budget of £3.0 Billion

Public Order
In 2003/04 the UK Public Order budget which includes Fire & Rescue; the Courts; & the Police, was £27.7 Billion, equivalent to £464 per head, which would result in a proportionate Welsh budget of £1.4 Billion. While the costs of Fire & Rescue in Wales are comparable to UK costs, the cost of Courts and Policing are considerably lower, as both of these are heavily London based. The Institute of Fiscal Studies report referred to above identifies Welsh expenditure as 95% of the UK figure, which would reduce the Welsh budget to £1.3 Billion

In 2003/2004 the UK defence budget was £28 Billion, which rose in 2005/2006 to £32.2 Billion, equivalent to £481 per person. Wales’s proportionate share would be £1.4 Billion. Following independence, Wales should probably adopt a similar military strategy as our nearest peaceful neighbour – Ireland. The Irish defence budget is E522, equivalent to E126 or £87 per person. If Wales followed Ireland’s example, we could cut our defence budget to around £0.25 billion

Social Security
In 2003/04 the UK Social Security budget, which includes pensions, unemployment, sickness benefits etc was £129.5 Billion, or £2,169 per head, which would result in a proportionate Welsh budget of £6.4 Billion. Unfortunately, due to our poor economic performance and levels of deprivation, the per capita spending in Wales is higher than the UK average, and the Institute of Fiscal Studies reports this as being 20% higher. This would result in an expenditure of £2,600 per head, and a Welsh budget of £7.7 Billion.

The biggest challenge facing a new Welsh government would be to reduce this social services budget by addressing the causes of deprivation.

‘Other’ Expenditure
Within the UK budget there is a large ‘black hole’ of ‘other’ expenditure equal to £80.2 Billion, or £1,343 per head, which would result in a proportionate Welsh budget of £3.9 Billion. This budget includes the cost of government itself, including the royal family, and overseas embassies, civil service pensions etc. It also includes the cost of nuclear industry subsidies; the security services; and other expenditure which the government would prefer you not to scrutinize too closely. Without a detailed breakdown it is difficult to accurately apportion these costs within an independent Wales but I am certain that it will be massively less than the UK figure. For sake of argument, I have conservatively adopted a figure of 50% of the UK figure, which would result in a proportionate Welsh budget of £1.95 Billion.

Remaining Items
For the remaining items, I have assumed that these would be generally proportional to the UK budget, which would result in the following Welsh budgets:
Environment £0.4 billion
Housing £0.4 billion
Enterprise £0.4 billion
Culture £0.3 billion
Agriculture £0.3 billion
Science & Technology £0.1 billion

Total Projected Expenditure
Adding these to the figures above, I conclude that the required budgeted expenditure of an independent Wales would be £20.5 Billion based on 2003/04 figures.

The Price of Independence - 2

An Introduction:

Before starting to look at the figures in detail, a few words of explanation – all the figures I have used are based on the UK government’s 2006 ‘Blue Book’, and refer to 2003/04 data in £billion. I have then initially estimated the Welsh element on a purely proportional basis, based on the nominal populations of Wales & the UK of 3million/60 million = 5%.

Category .................UK Budget..... Proportionate Welsh Budget
Social Security...................129.5........................... 6.4
NHS.......................................72.1........................... 3.8
Education............................. 59.5...........................2.9
Defence.................................28.............................. 1.5
Public Order........................27.7............................ 1.4
Science & Technology.......2.2.................................0.1
Other................................. 80.2...............................3.9
TOTAL..................... 449.......................... 22.55

I have then looked at each of these individual categories and created a projected Welsh budget by adjusting these initial figures, based on the best information I can find, and/or by making a series of assumptions (which are all documented).

But a word of warning – I am not an economist or a public finance accountant – these figures may not stand up to detailed scrutiny and need to be developed further by an expert, but I am confident that these figures are realistic and are far more accurate than anything which leaves the lips of Peter Hain.

(A lot more to follow - you will need to keep up at the back....)

Sunday 21 January 2007

The Price of Independence - 1

One of the common responses to Welsh Independence, is that we could not afford it. Where would we get the £25 billion or so that the Welsh budget requires ? simple answer – Taxes. No, not new or increased taxes, but revenues already generated here in Wales.

The unionist parties have perpetuated the myth that Wales receives more taxpayers money than it generates, but this is simply not true, and over the next few weeks I will set out to prove this in detail – step by step.

Just to start things off, can you imagine the reaction of Peter Hain to a proposed Welsh budget which predicted a £1 billion gap between spending and income??

Well in 2003/2004 the UK government current expenditure (ie the bit that has to be paid for out of taxation) was £449 Billion. For the same period, current income (ie income tax, VAT, surpluses etc) was only £444 Billion which represents a budget deficit of £5 billion. However, the current income also has to cover the cost of annual capital depreciation of £16 billion, leaving an overall UK budget deficit of £21 billion – with Wales’s proportional share being equivalent to £1 billion. Can the UK government afford its own independence??

We should not be asking if we can afford to be independent – we should be asking if we can afford not to be!!!!

(More to follow)

Lets take a journey.....

Ron Davies said that Devolution was a process not an event. Personally I believe that it is a journey, with an independent Wales being the eventual destination. But before planning the rest of the journey, it is worth reminiscing about some of the sights we have passed on the way:

The first significant step to devolution was not Ron’s assembly, but the disestablishment of the Church in Wales in 1920. This seems almost irrelevant today, but at the time this was a huge step as it represented the first official recognition that the 1536 Act of Union had failed to integrate Wales into England. Opposition at the time claimed that Wales was not a nation but simply a geographical area of England – How I would love to hear Peter Hain say that on TV today!!

In the 50s and 60s the UK governments tried to defuse growing Welsh aspirations by deliberately ignoring the Welsh border with such public bodies as the Merseyside & North Wales Electricity Board (Manweb), Television for Wales & West (TWW), and Welsh Water – which covered only 90% of Wales, but included large parts of England. We were given a series of colonial governors instead of democracy, and the recommendations of the Kilbrandon Commission were ignored.

At this point I have to confess to voting No in 1979, not because I opposed devolution, but I did not want Wales to become a super-county – something like Yorkshire. In hindsight I am not sure that was the right decision, but through perseverance we eventually got a more meaningful Assembly, even if we were first given a puppet leader in Alun Michael.

The original Assembly was toothless, but was strengthened gradually from within, with our patronizingly named First Secretary becoming our First Minister, and their Assembly becoming our Senedd. True to form, the UK politicians ignored the Richards Commission, and we will now get an Assembly Mark 2 instead of a Parliament.

But the more the unionists resist change, and implement half baked solutions, then the more the people of Wales will insist on further change. Opinion polls show that there is now an overwhelming demand for a full parliament, and support for independence is growing steadily.

In just under 20 years, we will ‘celebrate’ the 500th anniversary of our annexation by England – Our goal must be to see that this anniversary is not reached. We now need to plan the rest of our journey.

Can we afford to remain part of the UK?

Independence – surely a small country like ours just couldn’t afford to go it alone?

These GDP per head of population for 2005 are taken from the Economist. Only two countries with a population of over 10m appear.

(01) Luxembourg $52,990 pop 0.5m
(02) Norway $49,080 pop 4.5m
(03) Switzerland $44,460 pop 7.2m
(04) Denmark $39,330 pop 5.4m
(05) Ireland $38,430 pob 4.0m
(06) USA $37,240 pop 294m
(07) Iceland $36,960 pop 0.3m
(08) Bermuda $35,940 pop 0.1m
(09) Sweden $33,890 pop 8.9m
(10) Japan $33,860 pop 127.7m

Meanwhile, Wales always under performs within the UK set up. Our GDP figures are consistently the lowest in the UK. In 2003 London had the highest level of GDP per head of population in the UK, whilst Wales had the lowest, at £12,629 (Around $25,000 USD). Our GDP per head is lower than that of any of the non ex Eastern block EU members, bar Portugal.

Perhaps that the real question should be – Can we afford to remain part of the UK?

Saturday 20 January 2007

Plaid Cymru's vision of an independet Wales

In 2003 Plaid Cymru's director of policy Simon Thomas outlined his vision of an independent Wales in the Wales on Sunday. The points he makes are as valid today as they were four years ago:

SO what does independence in Europe really mean?

"Plaid Cymru's policy hasn't changed. We've always believed that Wales should have the right to a seat at the United Nations, and have long advocated that Wales can become a member state of the European Union. Six countries smaller - and poorer - than Wales will be joining the European Union soon. We simply want Wales to have the same chance.

"You could call this self-government, full national status or independence in Europe.

"Everyone living in Wales would become a citizen of Wales. There would be a written constitution and Bill of Rights."

WHEN would it happen?

"Only when the people of Wales wanted it.

"We want to see a full legislative and fiscal Parliament established in Wales as soon as possible. This in itself wouldn't change the UK - Scotland already has such a Parliament.

"Any future steps - such as becoming a member of the European Union could only be decided by a referendum."

WOULDN'T it cost a fortune?

"It could save us a fortune. Blair and Bush's illegal and immoral war in Iraq has already cost the taxpayer £3bn. It's predicted to soar to at least £6bn. That's £100m a month or the equivalent of 2p on income tax.

"Independence in Europe means the freedom not to waste our money on capitalism's wars or nuclear weapons!"

BUT doesn't England subsidise Wales?

"Only if you believe the Tory myths still peddled by Peter Hain.

"Back in the mists of time the anti-devolution William Hague published figures claiming Wales received £5.7bn annual subsidy from the UK.

"These figures were comprehensively rubbished by Rhodri Morgan and Kevin Brennan MP. It's a disgrace that Peter Hain prefers Tory maths over his own party's figures.

"The Labour Party itself claimed the figure was more like £1bn.

"This still sounds a lot, but would be wiped out by the Assembly Government's own claim of economic growth in Wales over the next three years.

"So if you believe Peter Hain's figures, you must also believe Rhodri Morgan will fail to improve the Welsh economy. One thing's for certain, Plaid Cymru can do better."

WHAT will happen to the Queen in an Independent Wales?

"The Queen could remain head of state. Plaid Cymru would want Wales to be a member of the Commonwealth.

"This is a real question for the current United Kingdom as well."

WHAT about the £?

"Plaid Cymru has no plans for an independent Welsh currency.

"Sooner or later, the UK will have to decide whether to join the Euro, so this is a question for the UK as well as Wales. We want to see the Euro introduced in the UK when the time is right. This bridge will certainly have to have been crossed before self-government becomes a reality.

WOULD there be a Welsh army?

"Not necessarily, though of course there would be Welsh soldiers as now. The growth of European integrated defence will overtake any feasible timetable for self-government.

"Wales could be like Ireland - making a valuable contribution to UN peacekeeping - or could negotiate a different defence relationship with the rest of the British Isles. Plaid Cymru would want Wales to be part of European co-operation on defence.

"One thing's for certain, Wales would not need to be part of the post-colonial clean-up of the British state's past mistakes (such as Iraq, formed as a British protectorate), and we would not need immoral nuclear weapons.

WHAT about immigration and passport control?

"These are again issues moving increasingly to the European level of deliberation even under the current UK arrangements.

"If you've ever taken a day trip to Ireland or driven between Belgium and France, you'll know that the European Union is founded on the free movement of goods and people.

"Wales would share immigration control with other European countries and certainly I hope provide a real welcome to bone fide refugees.

DO you really believe an independent Wales could be economically viable?

"Independence in Europe would undoubtedly bring a huge boost to the economy of Wales.

"Plaid Cymru wants Wales to take its place among the nations of Europe, not to make ourselves separate or isolated, but to get the best deal for our nation.

"At present the Barnett formula and lack of full additionality for European funding shortchanges the Welsh nation. Like Ireland, we believe Wales in Europe could become a beacon of regeneration.

"There is no lack of ambition, invention and go-ahead in Wales. What holds us back is being tied in to the most centralised and unequal economy in Europe.

"The UK has the worst level of regional disparity of all European countries. The Labour Party seems content to let Wales stew in a state of constant dependency.

HOW would the Welsh health service stand up to independence?

"The present situation has led to one in 10 of the Welsh population being on a waiting list. It's a scandal and an indictment of the National Assembly Government.

"A Parliament could negotiate a funding formula for Wales to make up for the years of under-investment and to reflect our real needs. For example, 18 per cent of the population in Wales have long term sick needs compared with a UK average of 13 per cent.

"Long-term care for the elderly could be provided as in Scotland, and legislation to set up Foundation Hospitals would not apply in Wales.

AND what about our schools and education?

"A Parliament could usher in curriculum reflecting Welsh needs, including citizenship and our place in the world. With a Parliament, Wales could decide differently to England on top-up fees.

"The Welsh language could be more fully supported and promoted, particularly for adult learners. English and Welsh would be official languages and neither monolingualism nor bilingualism would be thrust down peoples' throats.

WHAT about Wales' environment and its agriculture?

"Sustainable development would be at the heart of Plaid Cymru's self-governing Wales.

"We are fast becoming the dirty man of Europe. Our greenhouse gas emissions are up, not down, and we have atrocious recycling rates.

"Most environmental legislation now originates at the European level. Wales would be part of planning a clean, green future for all of us.

"We have huge water and renewable energy resources and we could reject the massive subsidy to the nuclear industry.

"Already this year, British Energy has received £1bn from the Treasury to prop it up.

"We would be able to negotiate directly with the European Commission on agricultural reform, fighting to keep our rural economy and family farms in business.

"We could reject GM crops. We could ensure land in the right place for affordable homes, a socialist objective that has been sadly ignored.

COULD Wales really be seen as a nation of its own?

"Like the 90 or so nations that are smaller than us, Wales would play its full part in the United Nations.

"However, independence in Europe would give us the opportunity, when appropriate, to reject war-making as the French and Germans did over Iraq.

"We want independence in Europe to join with other nations, including England, Scotland and Ireland, in the fight for a more peaceful, just world.

"This won't set us apart, but rather bring us even closer together with other nations. Wales has nothing to lose but its chains."

Friday 19 January 2007

Intimidating union

Another superb letter in the Western Mail today, this time by Huw Jackson. Original content will be added to this blog soon, we promise!

SIR - Hain, Brown and Falconer ask us to consider the benefits of the Union when defending the not-fit-for-purpose institution called the UK with such passion.

Let's consider a few of them: Waging war for control of Iraq's oil; committing billions to the nuclear deterrent and spending billions on the Olympic extravaganza in London. All these paid for by Welsh taxes as much as anybody else's. The payback for Wales is to be condemned as one of the poorest areas of Europe, with jobs like Burberry's disappearing down the plug hole, our young people priced out of their communities, our railways stuck in the Victorian era and a comedian as First Minister.

Never mind, says New Labour, there is strength in unity and the UK can influence (ie intimidate) the world. There will be a few gold medals at £50m each and Londoners will have their expensive 21st century city.

Using emotive language such as Balkanisation is an insult to all the people on the island of Britain. What if Wales and Scotland vote for independence in a democratically held election? Is Hain suggesting England is going to take on the role of Serbia and send in the troops against its smaller neighbours to keep his Greater England? New Labour is only interested in power and they are scared of losing it. More power for the Welsh people through their own parliament means less power for Hain and his cronies. Independence will mean that it's not just Wales that will be better off without the UK, it's the whole planet!

Gipsy Road, Welling, Kent

Wednesday 17 January 2007

English domination

Excellent letter by Gwyn Hopkins in the Western Mail today:

SIR As well as being shockingly misleading, Peter Hain's article (Western Mail, January 15) reveals grave deficiencies in our part-time Secretary of State's understanding of quantitative issues.

After discussing the prospect of only English MPs voting on English issues, he states, "The reality is that England would come to dominate the Government of Britain as a whole", as if this was not already emphatically the case. There are 529 English MPs out of a total of 646, so that 82% of MPs represent English constituencies. The governing Parliamentary Labour Party has 356 English MPs from a total of 425, ie 84% of its MPs are English. With "controlling interest" in any organisation being 51%, it is crystal clear that these overwhelming majorities already equate to complete English domination of the UK Parliament.

Mr Hain describes Wales as a "tiny nation". Aside from the derogatory connotations of the word "tiny" - such as insignificant and negligible - to which he obviously subscribes in relation to Wales, in worldwide terms he is very wide of the mark. Six of the 27 member states of the EU are tinier than Wales (population 2.9 million) and 32 of the 53 members of the British Commonwealth (60%) are smaller. Sixty-three of the 192 UN member states are tinier than Wales (33%), including some of generally high esteem such as Jamaica (2.8m), Cyprus (0.75m), Singapore (2.7m) and Kuwait (1.6m).

The contrast and inconsistency between the UK Parliament's determination and enthusiasm in defending the independence of Kuwait - half the size of Wales - in the first Gulf War and its (and Mr Hain's) tendency to ridicule the possibility of independence for Wales could hardly be starker.

Cleviston Park, Llangennech, Llanelli

Plaid and the i-word

Originally posted by Huw Thomas on the 'Chanticleer' blog.

Within this poll result, which indicates strong Welsh support for the Union, is a statistic that Plaid Cymru should really be capitalising on.

20% of those questioned - yes, one in five - support the call for an independent Wales.

Yet bugger me if any reference can be found to independence on any Plaid blogs, campaign literature or even in back-room briefings.

Without self-rule even being on the political agenda for Plaid, they appear to have the support of 20% of voters. Which begs the question - what on earth are Plaid doing?

They go on the defensive whenever the I-word is thrown in their direction, and stand like rabbits in the proverbial headlights whenever a politician or journalist raises the word.

Consider the SNP: they have consistently lobbied for independence, and make no bones about dressing it up in jargon like European federal status, or whatever Plaid are calling it this week.

The SNP have kept independence on the political agenda, and now look set to romp home in the Scottish elections. Support for independence in Scotland stands at around 12%.

Meanwhile, down in the Bay, Plaid have made a shambles of opposition in the months leading up to the elections, they have been walked over by Labour during budget negotiations (and doubtless will be taken for mugs again in any coalition talks), making them look weaker and less fit for office than ever before.

Everyone knows Plaid is about independence, but it's still a dirty word for a party who now prize seats in the valleys above their fundamental ideological ambitions.

How on earth can Plaid be taken seriously when they fail to see a giant neon arrow of support pointing at the policy they seem so keen to shelve?

Tuesday 16 January 2007

Proud to be British? Really?

It is ironic that former anti-Apartheid campaigner and de facto Governor of Wales, Peter Hain, believes the people of Wales should be proud of the role they played in building the British Empire.

That anyone should be proud of an imperialist legacy is in itself sad and astounding, if not a little alarming. But for the people of Wales - England's first ever colony - to be proud of the systematic destruction of their language, the erosion of their culture and identity, the denial of their own history, the ravaging of their natural resources, the drowning of their valleys to supply water for English cities, and the economic decline of rural and industrial communities, is as humiliating as it is irrational.

It’s time we started thinking for ourselves. It’s time we thought about what Britishness actually means, and what we benefit from our forced association with it. A question which has yet again come into sharp focus with the billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money the British State spends on worldwide war and killing thousands of people in oil-rich countries. Not to mention the British State’s pursual of Orwellian restrictions on civil liberties, and its ideological zeal for the worst excesses of free market capitalism that sees thousands of Welsh jobs go to the Far East, and a majority of first time buyers unable to buy - or even rent - a home.

The Welsh nation is a historic nation that has been denied its right to self-determination for far too long. We at Welsh Independence Blog believe it is time to rid ourselves of our subservient status and stand up for ourselves. An opinion poll conducted for the BBC today revealed that 20 percent of Welsh people support Welsh independence. That 1 in 5 people in Wales support independence when the issue is not even on any political party's agenda, and therefore not publicly debated, demonstrates that there is indeed a grass roots recognition of the need for change, and that the case for an independent Wales should be put before the people.

The British Labour Party, the majority party and government of Wales, has for far too long used propaganda, scaremongering and British nationalism to persuade our people that Wales cannot make it on her own and that Britishness and the Union Jack is our redemption. This view has never been challenged. Untill now.