Audio: Welsh independence ‘an opportunity to build a new economy that puts people first’

Mark Hooper speaking at the YesCymru event

Independence would be an opportunity to radically restructure the Welsh economy so that it worked in the interests of the people, according to Indycube founder Mark Hooper.

Hooper, who has overseen the transition of Indycube to a community benefit society and co-operative, with offices across the UK, said that Wales needed to prioritise people’s mental wellbeing ahead of consumer-led capitalism, jobs, and economic growth.

Speaking at Yes Cymru’s economics event “Why Wales can’t afford NOT to be independent” in Aberystwyth at the weekend, he admitted he has changed his mind about the issue of Welsh independence.

Having once thought Wales was “too poor, too small and too incapable of being independent” he now believes the push for sovereignty offers the opportunity for a radical restructuring of the Welsh economy while ensuring people aren’t promised something that can’t be delivered.

“If we’re going to start talking about independence we also have to recognise where the world is going, the risks to the world and to start challenging ourselves about what we are leaving for the next generation,” he said.

“I think we should be scared, really scared, about where the economy is going. Where the world is going.”

He pointing out the link between the use of fossil fuels to drive economic growth and the degradation of the environment as a consequence as one unsustainable consequence of our present economic system.

“We can try and find ways of making that okay with ourselves because we need economic growth,” he said. “But the reality is we are going to leave a situation that is going to become more and more chaotic and more and more of a problem.”

‘Disgusted’

Citing a conversation with social economist Dr. Mark Lang, who has produced studies for the Sustainable Places Research Institute at Cardiff University, as significant in shaping his thinking.

“I was saying ‘it’s about the economy. We’re not getting it right’,” he said.

“I was blaming the government. I was blaming my political party. I was blaming everyone. I was saying ‘we have got all these great ideas and nobody is delivering anything’.

“And his challenge, which is something that has really stuck with me, he said ‘the economy is what you make it. The economy is a construct’.

“It doesn’t have to be this way and it’s frightening that we’re all here thinking that the only alternative is to deliver the sort of economy we’ve got out there.

“One of the things a lot of people, particularly politicians do, and I think this is one of the biggest mistakes they make, is that they say, ‘What we’re going to do to change our economy is deliver high-quality jobs’.

“The fastest growing cohort of poverty in Wales is in families that have two or more people working. Without a doubt, work is no longer a route out of poverty.

“If there is going to be growth in things like automation, artificial intelligence, driverless technology, in a really short space of time we won’t be talking about jobs.

“Amazon, based in Swansea – the way people are treated when they work there is something we should all be disgusted by. We accept it because we think we need jobs .

“I was with my grandmother when she died a few years ago I and one of the things that was most fascinating about her death was a few minutes before she had all her family around her.

“For that period of time, she wasn’t ill anymore. She perked up. She wanted to see everyone. That struck a chord with me.

“When we pop our clogs there will be something that won’t be about how much money we’ve got. It won’t be about the economy.

“It will be about the people we’ve met. The relationships we’ve had and the people who matter to us. If we know that, how do we start to build that into the economy we want to start to build?”

‘Guts’

Hooper is a vocal advocate of Universal Basic Income, regular payments delivered by the state unconditionally, without a means-test or work requirement.

Although untested on a large scale so far, he believes this would help the financial distress of many in Wales, which has child poverty rates of close to 40%.

“Basic income is interesting,” he said. “One of the biggest costs to the economy is related to poverty.

“So, if we can find ways to tax wealth more effectively, like land value tax or others and then deliver in terms of a basic income to these people who won’t be able to find jobs anymore, that alleviates poverty. We can solve some of those issues.

“We need to start believing in ourselves. I don’t think Wales will be ready for independence until we start thinking independently and that means having the guts to start thinking about things differently.

“If the economy is a social construct, why can’t we think of an economy that is different? We could start to talk to the rest of the world about things that are more important, about social capital, not financial capital.

“If you go back to my grandmother, it was more important to her and it will be more important to everyone in this room at that point in time.”


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