Audio: Devolution creating a ‘mini UK’ in Wales, says economist

Calvin Jones. Picture by Mark Mansfield

Devolution has created a ‘minature UK’ inside of Wales that isn’t fairly distributing wealth around the country, a meeting on Welsh independence heard this week.

Professor Calvin Jones, Professor of Economics at the Cardiff Business School, was reflecting on issues of economy, value and identity at a Labour for an Independent Wales’ event in Cardiff.

The full discussion can be heard in the audio recording above.

“The problem that we have is, what we’ve done in Wales is that we’ve taken devolution and used it create the United Kingdom in miniature,” he said.

“So we’ve got an exploitative economy in the UK that takes a lot of value and shoves it into assets in London by building HS2, and doing the Olympics, and building another Heathrow runway.

“They’ve done this with public money, while denuding the rest of the UK of infrastructure and value.

“And what we’ve done is exactly the same in Cardiff. So we’ve swapped a big city in the south east of England for a big city in the south east of Wales.

“So the Welsh Assembly hasn’t really taken us further down a path in terms of what a more robust, sustainable Wales looks like, because we’ve just shrunk the UK state down for our own purposes.”

Core

He said that Wales had for hundreds of years been at the periphery of a centralised economy that made it difficult to keep its national resources, such as energy and people, in the country.

“We have a very strong core in London, and then the South East and South West providing some high-value services, and the resource peripheries are Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland,” he said.

“These are exchanges of value that have been in place for centuries and that are very entrenched.

“The question is, how can you build prosperity if you are continually sending over the best of your young people, the best of your natural resources, in ways that very often can’t be replicated?”

After 700 years of “effective colonialization” there were some “uncomfortable parallels” between Wales’ economy and third world countries, he said.

“A lot of what I teach about the global south is not a million miles away from the feeling of studying the Welsh economy,” he said.

“Wales’ economy is post-developed – rather than under-developed – but is dysfunctional in some of those similar ways.”

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