Six difficult questions about Welsh independence we need to answer

Mike Hedges AM (centre) speaks at the first event of Labour Party group ‘Labour for an Independent Wales’ at Yr Atom, Carmarthen. (Photo: Gruffydd Thomas).

Ben Gwalchmai

Labour is a party of discussion, innovation, and change, and we don’t shy away from the difficult questions.

It’s in that spirit that we held our first Labour for an Independent Wales event in Carmarthen last Friday.

These difficult questions were supplied by Mike Hedges AM, who let us know immediately that he was not convinced of the need for independence. He saw DevoMax as the best option.

He listed six questions that needed to be tackled before Labour could make the case for a referendum on Welsh independence:

  1. What currency should we have?
  2. Do we need a central bank?
  3. How should government agencies be split or replicated?
  4. How do we apportion debt?
  5. How do we continue pensions and social security payments?
  6. How do we divide the Armed Forces?

Answers

These are all robust and wise challenges to the question of a Welsh independence referendum.

Though I don’t pretend to have all the answers, I felt many of Mike’s questions have been answered by research collated by Yes Cymru’s Independence in Your Pocket or the State of Wales blogs.

  1. What currency to have? It’s my opinion that we should have our own, floating currency for flexibility. The State of Wales blogs have looked extensively at currency and says that a Welsh Currency, pegged to pound-sterling would provide both a level of autonomy and consistency that would see a structural benefit in the short-medium term.
  2. Do we need a central bank? Yes. We need a central Bank of Wales. For focus, for understanding the Welsh economy better, and for better analysis for the Welsh Government.
  3. How should government agencies be split or replicated? Government agencies will have to be replicated in whichever country doesn’t currently have them: we have the DVLA, England has the DWP. No nation can rely on another nation to operate such an essential, centralized system.
  4. How do we apportion debt? Apportioning national debt should be done by population. Unfortunately, it seems any negotiations with the current UK government might see them making fantasy demands. It’s important to note Gwynoro Jones’ first words at our roundtable, ‘Almost all countries have debt and a deficit. The UK has £1.92trillion debt. No-one asks if the UK can afford to be a state.’
  5. How to continue pensions and social security payments? We transition pensions and social security payments by making new, more progressive and more efficient systems for our newly established country while continuing with the old systems until all those who were born into them have been transferred. A transition phase.
  6. How do we divide the division of the Armed Forces? How was it done in Ireland or India? There are models that can be replicated.

Mike Hedges also argued that contemporary nations need be a part of a larger trading bloc, and then discussed the qualities desired in such a bloc.

This is something we agree with him on, but not necessarily which bloc.

In my opinion, he spelled out the qualities of the EU but, of course, the Brexit vote of 2016 must be addressed and respected.

Convincing new Labour members of the need for a distinct Wales won’t be easy but the numbers don’t lie: the House of Commons is a de facto English Parliament and Labour stands for equality.

We feel that by working with the party, in positive discussions, rather than against it is the best way to bring new members to be interested in independence.

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