Coffee House

Wales, sleepwalking to independence?

14 May 2014

Independence is a fringe issue in Wales. Just 12 per cent of Welsh voters support it, and that figure has been stubbornly consistent. But it is far from implausible that within a decade Wales could find itself standing alone, not through any conviction that independence is the best bet, but because the UK has marginalised Wales.

Wales is in a weak negotiating position already, as the Scottish referendum campaign has shown. Take the Barnett Formula, which adjusts the amount of money received from the Treasury by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. An expert commission, led by respected economist Gerald Holtham, pointed out that if Wales were treated on the same basis as an English region it would get some £300million more a year. But the pro-unionist parties have pledged to keep the Barnett Formula in place (which provides Scotland £4bn annually) as part of their case that the UK is ‘better together’. Wales, Gerald Holtham has concluded, is to be treated as “the runt of the litter… like the youngest child of a poor family that gets only hand-me-down clothes, whether appropriate or not in style or size.” Such is Wales’ lack of leverage that the Treasury didn’t even feel the need to dispute Holtham’s analysis; it simply ignored it.

Welsh political elites are beginning to feel that the union is unresponsive to its modest demands. “The United Kingdom is not a ‘sharing union’. It is rather a realpolitik union. Those with the loudest voice and a credible threat of secession get to have most influence on how resources are allocated,”says Prof Richard Wyn Jones of Cardiff University’s Welsh Governance Centre.

Claim your gift

But what if Scotland were to leave the UK? Might the union become more responsive to Wales? Much will depend on how Scottish secession is conducted. It is in the interests of unionists to be magnanimous; but stark statements about currencies, defence and the economy suggest that unionists’ instincts are to let the nationalists stew in their own juice. If this instinct were to govern the secession negotiations and the eventual terms of independence, it might unnerve Welsh political elites and make them fear that a similar dynamic will characterise government in the rump UK, making Wales even more powerless than it is at present.

Of course, it is possible that Whitehall will accommodate Wales in such circumstances; but it seems unlikely. England’s relative size will have jumped from 85 per cent of the UK, to nearly 92 per cent of the rump state, and a resurgent England, and its future in Europe, is therefore likely to command greater attention at the centre.

If the polls are correct, Wales’s wish to remain in the EU would be overwhelmed by England’s wish to leave. Not only would that create a clash of values but it would also create deep unease about Wales’ economic wellbeing, which would have political consequences. The little regional policy there is within the UK is driven from Brussels, not London. If the EU aid tap was turned off, with nothing equivalent in its place, the concern that economic policy is pre-occupied with London and south east England might shift political thinking on the left in Wales. A union dominated by a larger neighbour, especially one standing outside the EU, and with a powerful centre-right presence, is a very different proposition from the current union eulogised by unionist politicians in Wales.

At the time of writing, a No vote in Scotland still seems the most likely outcome; but, with the lead narrowing, Scottish secession is plausible. Such an eventuality would have profound and far-reaching consequences for Wales, especially if, at the insistence of overbearing centre-right concerns in England, the rump UK exits the EU. It’s about time that the Welsh started to face up to the fact that the ground beneath is moving.

Lee Waters is Director of the Institute of Welsh Affairs.

Give the perfect gift this Christmas. Buy a subscription for a friend for just £75 and you’ll receive a free gift too. Buy now.

Show comments
  • Jacques Protic

    For starters one needs to look at Lee Waters and the Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA) and what they stand for. Lee and IWA are 100% committed to Welsh Republic, they promote Social Engineering of Wales in terms of Welsh language imposition and unprecedented privileges for 10% of the Welsh population.

    Lee and IWA operate a vicious censorship of thought on anyone who disagrees with creation of the Y Fro republic and especially if anyone dares question the Welsh language compulsion that is destroying Welsh education, Welsh NHS, Economy and anything else that matters in Wales.

  • Jonathan Burns

    There is no oil for the Separatists to cling onto and get their knickers in a twist.

    • Mabon ap Gwynfor

      The most valuable resource that any nation has are its people. Wales, like ever y other nation, is incredibly wealthy full of brilliant, wonderful people.

      Of course we also have water and wind in copious amounts. We don’t now the value of these resources, unlike oil or gas (which is pure guess work at the end of the day). But we have all the resources necessary for the essentials of life. :)

  • Maidmarrion

    Best flag in the business – c’mon wee Wales!

  • Bill_der_Berg

    Wales should open discussions with Mr Putin about the possibility of doing a Crimea.

  • derek

    The answer for Wales is to stop voting in Labour, let all the Welsh seats become marginal constituances then the various parties would be falling over themselves to help Wales.

    • Andy

      Answer for Wales is to have properly sized constituencies, not the piddling rotten boroughs they have at present. If you block Rhondda with any one of the surrounding seats it would still not have the same number of electors as the Isle of Wight.

    • Wessex Man

      No the answer is for Wales and NI to go it alone as hopefully Scotland will and give we the English taxpayers a rest from this cruel abuse!

      • Raw England

        We English will have no rest, peace or respite.

        Not until we have White Revolution.

        • Daidragon

          Why don’t you do something truly revolutionary and fuck off back to Germany and Scandinavia where you came from. The Welsh are the indigenous people of these islands.

  • derek

    If Wales even looks like becoming independent I for one am leaving and I’ll go and live with my son in Lincoln.

    • Maidmarrion

      I’m sure the Welsh feel utterly bereft by that statement.
      Maybe Lincoln won’t be so pleased to have you!

    • Owi Wowi

      Do you not look forward to living in a socialist paradise?

  • Grey Wolf

    What a ridiculous article? Why was it even published? Do the Welsh even care? Why bother?

    • ButcombeMan

      Why was it written?

      Silly kite flying by someone desperate to write anything

  • LadyDingDong

    Time for us to have the chance to vote for independence from these Barnett Formula leeches. I can conceive that Scotland could go it alone, although the mad socialists in charge would face a Greek style bankruptcy inside a lustrum, but Wales and Northern Ireland? At least NI could join with Ireland but Wales would end up as a sort of Albania with no industry, income or prospects; but at least it would be a Labour stronghold to use as an example to scare the idiot lefties remaining in England. We would have to have separate passports, a high wall and the ability to keep them out though, otherwise they would flood in and deprive all those nice Romanians and Bulgarians of the low-paid jobs and tax credits.

    • berosos_bubos

      Why can’t a formula simply be based on population, with an equal amount per head. At least then there would be an incentive to own up to the true levels of immigration.

    • Richard

      Wow your negativity must be really welcomed at dinner parties

      “albania with massive walls” .. dont you hear your own drivel

      We arent even on the UK flag ffs……no one cares about us

      Trillions of pounds mined and shipped out of Wales….where is the inherited wealth? In tax dodging offshore havens thats where

      • Owi Wowi

        Wealth is not a static thing – it needs to be re-created every day – I imagine the Welsh ate theirs – they are a fat people.

    • Mabon ap Gwynfor

      A remarkable lack of knowledge about Wales shown in this comment. ‘End up as a sory of Albania with no industry’? Sheer idiocy. So, industry exists on its own, does it? Industry just ‘happens’ does it? Foolish comment. People develop industry. Governments allow or stifle those developments. How derogatory you are towards the people of Albania, and Wales. This comment shows the imperialist supremacist mind set of the Edwardian period, believing that your superiority has made you succesful while we Welsh must be inferior and stupid not to be able to develop our own industry.

      So, how much more natural resources does Switzerland have than Wales to allow it’s industry to flourish? What about Luxemburg? Is she vastly wealthier in natural resources? Or lets go to one of the most vibrant and wealthiest regions in th world, the silicon valley. They’re just lucky to live in an area with a lot of microchips growing on their trees. Is that it?

      No. People developed industries in these places. The natural conclusion therefore is that you believe that us Welsh are inferior; more stupid; less capable than other people to develop a vibrant economy.

      You probably think its just kinder, more humane to put us all down.

      • Wessex Man

        So prove to us that you can do ‘it’ and declare your independence.

        • Mabon ap Gwynfor

          I doubt whether I can unilaterally declare Independence. I’ll try though 😉

  • Henry Hill

    Not a committed ‘Outer’, but it should be blindingly obvious that of all the things that cannot be devolved. foreign policy is one of them. If the majority of the British people wish to leave the EU, we should.

    The essence of the Union is that pan-UK decisions, made by and for the British people collectively, are legitimate. If they are not, then the Union is already over.

    • Richard

      how authoritarian of you

      all this “we” and “us” nonsense….Im an individual with individual opinions

      • Henry Hill

        Sure, but you can’t have an individual foreign policy so I don’t really see what your point is. Foreign policy is set at the level of ‘we’ and ‘us’.

        • Owi Wowi

          Richard will arrange a free trade agreement with China

  • RJMorgan

    “If the polls are correct, Wales’s wish to remain in the EU would be overwhelmed by England’s wish to leave.”

    Polls like this you mean:

    The Welsh nationalists aren’t even going to win a European seat next week. Ukip and the Cons have one each (out of 4) and that will remain the case.

    Most people shrug their shoulders at devolution. Most people in Wales probably think Michael Gove is in charge of education there and are far more likely to recognise Warren Gatland than Carwyn Jones. There’s no chance of independence as a maj of the population live within 40 miles of England, many work there (and about a quarter of those living in Wales are English).

    • Mabon ap Gwynfor

      Again, illogical and insulting arguments.
      Specifically insulting to English people. So there are a lot of English people living here. Your suggesting that they would not support independence. Your suggesting theregore that they are colonisers, answerable and faithful to the motherland.Or you’re suggesting that they are to stupid to realise that they are in a different country. How utterly insulting! My English friends here would be disgusted with your comment. They are far wiser than what you believe them to be, and play a valuable role in our communities. I’m disgusted.

      Furthermore, so a large proportion of the population live ‘within 40 miles of England’. Therefore, according to you, they won’t support independence. Geographically most of Wales is within 40 miles of our only bordering country! I live within 10 odd miles as the crow flies! So whta? Everybody in Luxemburg lives within a few miles of a larger neighbouring country. Does this mean that Luxemburg shouldn’t exist? What about Canada and the proximity of its inhabitants to the US? What exactly is your point?

      Regarding people’s knowledge of Welsh affairs. Is it amy wonder when the widest read newspapers in Wales are The Mail; The Sun and other ‘Fleet st.’ publications? Most people get there news from an exclusively England orientated source.

      Empower people with relevant knowledge then you’ll see a change. However this isn’t in the interests of the Unionist British Establishment.

      • Wessex Man

        I don’y believe it my comment below is waiting to be approved so the censored version now follows-

        Start the revol***** brother, man the barr*****, burn the Un*** F***, or on the other hand put the telly on get out a f** packet out and a few Be*** and blame we wi**** English for all your troubles.

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    Questions to which the answer is no?

  • 2trueblue

    I think only 29% voted for devolution so why all the chatter about nothing? So far they have shown that they are better in the union, with the UK picking up the slack. Or perhaps like the idiots up north they think that being a small state in the EU on their own is a better option!

    • RJMorgan

      Really irritates me. Wales is actually very pro-UK; far more pro than the media reports (just look at the number of Jubilee parties there were in Wales 2 years ago). Just because some in Scotland want more independence doesn’t mean every other non-English bit of the UK does too.

  • 2trueblue

    I think only 29% voted for devolution so why all the chatter about nothing? So far they have shown that they are better in the union, with the UK picking up the slack. T

    • Richard

      People are far more pro devolution now than in the past

      • Henry Hill

        Almost inevitable, when you have a whole political and civil society class whose prestige and power depends on expanding devolution and nobody in power with a vested interest in opposing it.

    • Wessex Man

      and the English paying for it!

  • RavenRandom

    Oh already with the Wales independence? How tiresome.
    If Scotland stays we need devo max for all four countries. If Scotland goes, referendum for the rest of us, as I for one do not want to go through all this crap again with Wales. Let’s sort it out up front.

    • William Haworth

      We will need a constitutional convention to sort out the mess after the Scottish vote, regardless of the result.

      • RavenRandom

        Agreed. We can’t keep increasing powers for three of UK’s nations and leave England just to suck up its democratic deficit.

    • Maidmarrion

      And what ” crap” have you had to go through ,pray tell?
      You aren’t obliged to take part by reading any iffy piece of journalism about Scotland you know , you are allowed to bypass it.
      And you certainly aren’t forced to comment ,no matter how ineffectually.

      • RavenRandom

        The crap we have all of us had to go through, with spurious facts being thrown around by various campaigns. Being a British citizen and caring about what happens to my country, I find I have a stake in all of this, so I read the articles, even if I don’t like what they say. I will comment as much as I like on a subject that so directly affects me.
        Equally you also have no requirement to comment and can pass on rather than impugning other people’s right to have an opinion. But if it directly affects you or even if you’re just interested then feel free to comment.

        • Jambo25

          If you feel under or unrepresented then get up off your behinds and do something about it. Stop moaning about the Scots and others who have done something about it.

          • RavenRandom

            Bit of an assumption there Jambo25. And I’ll “moan” about political development in the UK in the comments section of a political newspaper as much as I like. Or is that too logical for you?

            • Jambo25

              Believe it or not, I’m on your side. I think people in England are under represented: particularly those living outside London and the South East. People in the South West and North seem to be particularly ignored. I’m just asking you and like minded people to identify your real enemy and do something about it rather than moaning about those, in Scotland and Wales who have already taken action.

              • Wyrdtimes

                The English aren’t represented at all. UK MPs in a UK parliament does not constitute representation for England. The English also get the least per person per year funding. Londoners get higher funding than anyone else in England but still not as high as the Scots, Welsh or NIrish.

                Plus there’s this:


                • Jambo25

                  Londoners, generally, get more, per head, than Scots. Your enemy is the Westminster establishment, not the Scots.

        • Richard

          Being a HUMAN BEING, Im tired of 62 million people being ruled by the few in a building on the Thames

          Wales; technically wealthy but exploited so much of wealth and skills its deliberately pushed into poverty

          during the industrial rev, Bristol and Liverpool were made the trading hubs for Welsh goods, they made the wealth while us peasants went home with little money to invest in infrastructure

          • Raw England

            We can all agree that London – ALL of it, and everything in it – is the cancer that’s destroying what’s left of our country.

    • you_kid

      So, are we ready to let go properly the moment Scotland decides England’s future then?

      • RavenRandom

        Are you ready to construct a clear sentence in plain English?

        • you_kid

          Is the recipient of this promulgation adroit enough to let go the moment Scotland decides England’s future?

          • RavenRandom

            Goodness you’ve found a thesaurus. How cute. What a funny little fellow you are. Do you and Tele have fun and jelly in your troll house?

            • you_kid

              You believed YOU were in control, lad? Think again.
              Scotland will decide England’s future. Suck it up.

              Now, what was your comment again? You demand a referendum. How tiresome, matey. You will not get one.
              Poor thing, boo hoo hoo.

              • RavenRandom

                What’s that Tele (the “lad” is a dead give away), tiny bit testy?
                Strikes me that you can’t hack it, you’re a classic keyboard bully. Enjoy your whining and snivelling in your troll house.

                • you_kid

                  Voting for your own comment now lad, repeatedly?
                  Do you agree with yourself that much?

                • RavenRandom

                  What’s that “lad”… you risible fool sad, deluded sock puppet.

                • you_kid

                  Lad, you are found VOTING FOR your own comment, repeatedly. What does that make you – a voice of reason?
                  You are your own best sockpuppet, lad.

                • RavenRandom

                  What’s that Tele… my I can hear you spluttering from here. “Curious how only sockpuppets talk up sockpuppetry” methinks you doth protest too much.
                  Look “lad” or should I say “lad”… are you stuttering now?
                  Caught out again Tele, you deluded fool. I hope you enjoy your nights having your Gollumesque conversations with your alter egos.
                  Night little boy, enjoy your troll house.

  • Iain Hill


Can't find your Web ID? Click here