Academics ask: ‘How much longer can Wales afford not to be independent?’
A pair of academics have taken aim at the suggestion that Wales is “too small” and “too poor” to be independent.
Dr Edward Jones and Dr Brian Jones both of Bangor University, argued that Wales need to move away from that “received wisdom” and “abandon” that “narrow view” if the country is to tackle “key problems” facing the economy.
In an article for the IWA think tank they also criticised the “Westminster Government” for its “disrespectful lack of engagement with Wales’ elected leadership”.
They hit out at the UK Internal Market Act, which “over-rides devolved powers” and accused the Conservative government of “deliberately” removing “significant areas of economic control from Cardiff”.
They wrote: “Whether people are already committed to independence or cautiously ‘indy-curious’, any conversation on the subject soon turns to a question posed in many different ways, but ultimately summed up as: ‘Can Wales really afford to be independent?’
“On key indicators, such as productivity, educational attainment, income, material deprivation, health, housing, Wales performs badly.
“A different question might be, ‘How much longer can Wales afford not to be independent?’, if it is to have any real say in its economic destiny.
“In conversation, there appears to be a received wisdom that Wales is ‘too small’ and ‘too poor’ to ‘go it alone’, as an independent country, but it is far from being the smallest or the poorest in Europe. The Baltic states of Lithuania (2.8m), Latvia (1.9m), and Estonia (1.3m) and also Slovenia (2.1m) are all smaller, while Croatia (4.1m) and Ireland (5.0m) are bigger than Wales (3.1m).
“They make interesting comparators as they have all rebuilt their economies since joining the EU, and all are independent states which were formerly subordinate parts of a much larger political entity.”
‘Size of a country’
They added: “But what about being ‘too poor’? Does the size of a country influence its economic growth? The existence of a so-called scale effect on economic growth is a recurring question in economics. The fast development of small East Asian economies in the 1970s and 1980s, captured by Schumacher’s phrase “small is beautiful” (1973), fuelled a new branch of literature documenting these economic miracles.
“Again, there is clear evidence that Wales is not ‘too poor’ to be independent. Given the size of its population, it ranks 27th (out of 38) on employment rate, and the Welsh economy, as measured by GDP, in a comparison of GDP with other European countries excluding potential Candidate Countries and Norway, is ranked 23rd (out of 34).
“By allowing ‘too small and too poor’ to become the received wisdom, Wales has lost its way and needs an ambitious economic strategy, if it is to take independence seriously.
“We cannot move on from the key problems facing our economy until we abandon this narrow view of Wales being ‘too small’ and ‘too poor’.”