Wales should hold vote on independence options before requesting in / out referendum, new report recommends
Wales should hold its own advisory referendum on the options for the nation’s constitutional future before approaching Westminster to request a binary in/out independence vote.
That is among the recommendations of a 225 page Independence Commission Report which will be launched today.
It recommends that the Welsh Government should test the views of the people of Wales in an initial exploratory referendum, setting out constitutional options.
The outcome should be used to persuade the UK Government to agree to a binary referendum on the status quo versus the preferred choice expressed in the first referendum.
“The Commission should explore the New Zealand approach to testing the views of the people of Wales in an initial exploratory referendum, setting out constitutional options,” the report says.
“It should be made clear that the outcome will be used to persuade the UK Westminster Government to agree to a binary referendum on the status quo versus the preferred choice in the first referendum.”
The report also notes that joining the EU would be a “practical challenge” for Wales if England remained outside. It recommends exploring the potential of Wales joining the European Free Trade Area while negotiating its own free-trade agreement with England.
The report also recommends a “radically changed relationship between the three nations” of the UK, “rather than complete separation”.
The Commission chair, former Plaid Cymru MP Rt Hon Elfyn Llwyd said that many people were becoming aware of the positive advantages for Wales of possessing its own democratic institutions.
“The Commission believes that independence, providing much greater control of our own affairs, is the status for which Wales should aim,” he said.
“The people of Wales are central to the independence process and they need to have a clear understanding of the options available for their political future.
“Ahead of a referendum on independence a National Commission and associated Citizens Assemblies should be established to ensure maximum awareness, participation, and involvement.”
The report also argues that only independence can bring a fundamental improvement to the Welsh economy.
It says Wales has failed to make economic progress not because the country is too small or too poor, but because it is trapped within an economy overwhelmingly shaped in the interests of the City of London, it says.
“This flawed model has been proven not to deliver prosperity to Wales and offers no expectation of doing so in the future” Elfyn Llwyd added.
“An independent Wales would be free to change this. It would no longer be a region subordinated to the interests of London and the south-east of England or be subject to the fiscal policies determined by the UK Government.
“There are lessons to be learned from Ireland, formerly one of the most peripheral and poorest parts of the UK. It is now a confident, self-assured independent nation, one of the richest parts of these Isles, with a seat at the United Nations.”
Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price said that the report would play a crucial role in the national conversation on independence.
“Something is happening in Wales,” he said. “Support for independence is at the highest it has ever been. Our nation is on the march and people are waking up to the idea that independence is possible.
“Creating a new Wales is the work of an entire nation, all of its people and all of its perspectives.”
Welsh Liberal Democrats have described the report as a mix of fanatical politics and pie in the sky economics.
Their leader Jane Dodds said that while “politics isn’t working for Wales or the UK as well as it could right now” that “independence looks attractive”..
“There are far too many uncertainties, too many unknowns and too many risks with independence, she said.
“We don’t know nor are Plaid proposing solutions to questions such as: What currency we would use? Would we still have access to the BBC? What would happen in towns and villages that straddle the border? Or whether English students will still be able to study in our universities?”
Jane Dodds called for a “truly federal United Kingdom” instead.
The process would start with a declaration of a federal United Kingdom. A citizens’ assembly would then help draw up a written constitution.
Under the motion The Senedd, the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly would have their powers protected and could not be over-ruled by the Westminster government, she said.
The governments would be required to co-operate to tackle big issues that affect the whole UK such as child poverty or the climate emergency.
“The idea to reform the UK to a federal nation similar to Canada and Germany is a constructive middle way between a centralising Westminster government and a dash for independence from the nationalists,” she said.
“It replaces division with the co-operation which is needed to heal the existing divisions and to build a better future for everyone.”