John Ball, former lecturer in economics at Swansea University
Last week Alun Cairns claimed in an interview with the Western Mail that Wales will “never vote for independence”.
Never is, of course, a strong word. Wasn’t it the British Empire upon which the sun would ‘never’ set?
I suppose it’s to be expected that a conservative Secretary of State would attempt to denigrate the growing independence movement in Wales.
But is Alun Cairns actually Secretary of State for Wales? I ask because in his rather overlong interview he displays what might politely be called a naïve view of the consequences of Brexit on the country, coupled with an astonishing ignorance of current affairs in Wales in general.
As the independence debate intensified in Scotland we had from the British Government what was called ‘Project Fear’. Alun Cairns’ contribution suggests that in Wales we will have a ‘Project Fiction’.
One of Cairns’ more dubious claims is that there is “no chance in the world that Scotland or Wales would be admitted as independent nations to the EU”. And anyway, he says, the people of Wales voted to leave the EU.
It is the case that more people in Wales voted to Leave, but it was a close-run thing, and there is ample evidence that many have since changed their minds.
But whichever side of that debate one is on, what is clear is that Wales is already a member and would remain so after independence if we so wished. To suggest otherwise is simply not the case. According to the European Commission Committee on Constitutional Affairs itself: “There now seems to be a consensus that, were Scotland to become independent by legal means, it could join the [European] Union”. And the same would apply to Wales.
There is a clear strategy here, however, to try and suggest that the Yes campaign and the Remain campaign are one, and that YesCymru is just the latest attempt to subvert ‘the will of the people’.
It’s a useful smear, but untrue. The movement draws from all aspects of Welsh life; Alun Cairns might have nightmares knowing that some supporters of Welsh independence actually vote Conservative!
I suppose all politicians bend the truth, especially those peddling snake oil. He refers to “ambitious spending on health and new hospitals,” illustrating an astounding skill in bending geography – his own Prime Minister gleefully pointed to this spending – in England!
Does he actually know that health policy is devolved?
Toward the end of the interview Project Fiction becomes the old cherry – Wales is poor and is subsidised by our generous neighbours.
If he cares to look at the facts and not the fiction, careful analysis of recent research by Cardiff University shows that Wales is more than capable of paying its way, as demonstrated in recent articles published by Nation Cymru and indeed other publications.
Perhaps he would care to comment on the UK being in hock to the rest of the world to the tune of two trillion pounds? Can the UK afford independence?
His knowledge of international trade also leaves a little to be desired. His contention that access to global markets is only possible by being part of the UK is ludicrous. Wales can attract “global jobs,” as he puts it, without being in the UK, as every other nation in the same position does.
If you’re that sure and as we say in Swansea, put your money where your mouth is and arrange a referendum. Or are you afraid of the result?