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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Richard Jenkins
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Richard Jenkins

Lovely stuff! All very important questions. However, these are not the questions that most people on the doorstep ask. That question is, how will survive? How can we be viable as a nation? The lack of confidence and self belief is a mountainous problem in Cymru. A mountain built in conjunction with the Tories by Welsh Labour. A mountain that Welsh Labour adds to most days. That’s the problem! What is Welsh Labour going to do to reverse this build up of and reinforcing of this disgraceful inferiority complex and the resulting Stockholm complex it causes? All the other stuff… Read more »

Paul Harding
Guest
Paul Harding

Come a referendum/debate people on the doorstep will ask questions about the currency they’ll use and what happens to their state pensions.

Those will be bigger issues than the ‘confidence’ of a nation.

See Scotland, 2014 for an example.

Capitalist and Welshnash
Guest
Capitalist and Welshnash

Whilst i value and support a Pro-Wales Labour movement, what group we need to draw support for independence from more than any other are Conservatives and liberals. We need Tories, traditionalists and Liberals to come forward as pro-Welsh independence. Only then will the independence movement be able to say it represents all of Wales.

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

fair point

Gerallt
Guest
Gerallt

If only Plaid Cymru spent a little time during the last 18 years of devolution actually addressing some of these basic points raised by Mike Hedges. Our independence movement should be able to answer his basic points easily. Pensions, for example, will still be paid by the UK government after independence because people have paid into a pension fund. This was confirmed during the Scottish referendum by the UK government themselves – rather like if a UK citizen moved abroad, they still receive their pension from the UK. The issue I have is that Plaid Cymru are allowing British nationalists… Read more »

Gerallt
Guest
Gerallt

In addition, Labour’s plan for devo-max is a non-starter. Either they have to decide that Wales and Scotland are regions of the UK like the midlands, which basically means that Wales and Scotland are second class nations and not equal to England in a supposed union, or they have to decide that England will have a parliament and this is something they won’t support. Devo Max can’t work as the nations of the UK are too different in size. This is the reason that Labour, even though they use Devo Max as a rallying cry to try and stop independence,… Read more »

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

Confederations…look them up…self ruling..but get on closely

Dafydd Thomas
Guest
Dafydd Thomas

Q1. Currency question not difficult. Floating ok. Mervin King thought the debate on currency in Scotland a bit if a storm in a teacup, or, more of a political spat. He said “despite the positions of the two sides, the currency question does not need to be at the centre of the debate. In other words it’s not a difficult question as you define it. Q2. Yes Q3. Adopt as necessary. Q4. Pro rata. Remember we have more English than they have Welsh. Q5. Pensions. When Welsh state set up those at 16 will have pensions allocated to Welsh government.… Read more »

Tellyesin
Guest
Tellyesin

“In my opinion, he spelled out the qualities of the EU but, of course, the Brexit vote of 2016 must be addressed and respected.” No. The EU is the only bloc to which we could belong and the only other adjacent bloc is the Russian Confederation. No matter what people say the numbers are that around 26% of out population and 36% of our electorate voted leave. This is not a majority and whilst it should be acknowledged it is both foolish and dishonest to claim this as a mandate fro economic suicide. I wish you luck with Labour and… Read more »

Dai
Guest
Dai

6. Wales does not need a military. Be a modern, pacifist state. Have an emergency rescue service for civil disasters but not an armed force.

Euron
Guest
Euron

Before any of these questions are considered I would argue there’s a more fundamental one to pose. What exactly is ‘Wales’? Is it a shared love of rugby, choirs, Eisteddfodau and Cerdd Dant? If so then I am indifferent to all of them- but yet I was born in Wales. And if it’s down to mere geography then is a holiday-cottage owner in Gwynedd as much of a ‘Welsh person’ as, say, Max Boyce or Cynan? I was born into a Welsh speaking family and a Welsh speaking culture stretching back generations but, even so, I can’t put my finger… Read more »

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

You could apply that to any part of the planet though……are you advocating world communism? Because that still needs localism and devolved power.

Also the many decades of having constant London mass media and a lack of connecting infrastructure and culture in Wales ….means you were bound to have a lot in common with others in Britain

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

you cant define welshness…….??? You could say the same about englishness………..that could lead to arguing for Yorkshire independence……..it goes both ways

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

the concept of the UK is also nebulous then…………all nations are social constructs

Tame Frontiersman
Guest
Tame Frontiersman

These are not so much “difficult questions” as technical issues which could become political. 2 other important issues occur to me to add to Mike Hedges list: Q7 Nationality: eligibility for Welsh citizenship; reciprocal rights of Welsh and English citizens in England and Wales Q8 Trans-border transport (road, air and esp. rail). There would probably have to be some sort of joint commission to oversee this. The Labour Party delivered devolution for Wales in 1997. Could it deliver independence by 2027? By the early 2020s there could well be a Labour Party in power in both Westminster and Cardiff Bay.… Read more »

CapM
Guest
CapM

Of all the strategies to adopt in order to bring about an independent Cymru the Bonnie Tyler one has got to be a contender for the twpest.

“Where have all the good men gone
And where are all the gods?
Where’s the streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds?
Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn
And I dream of what I need

I need a hero “

Teilo
Guest
Teilo

These are technical issues that as mentioned may be politicised when a debate begins, the fact that such a meeting between labour members is a positive thing as any successful independence movement will need to take Labour with it. This meeting however doesn’t mean that the debate has reached the mainstream, but sites like this, and social media mean that more people are engaging with the question of wether Wales should be independent. Questions of identity are important as without the a majority defining themselves as Welsh then independence is a non-starter, but this could be a civic nationalism as… Read more »

Euron
Guest
Euron

I suspect that these arguments and debates regarding the minutiae of some mythical neo-Narnia may be interesting pub fodder for Plaid supporters as they puff on their (smoke-free) pipes but, in that big real world outside- whilst this debate rages in the snug- most people in Wales are watching Corrie, cleaning their cars, thinking about a possible winter break in Benidorm and struggling with Proust. I’m with them.

(With the Proust bit anyway).

JE Lloyd
Guest
JE Lloyd

Every state has difficult and controversial issues to address. It is a tactic of Unionists to lure independence supporters into addressing those questions prematurely in order to try to split the pro-independence movement. There is no need to resolve the currency issue ahead of actual independence, otherwise than on an interim basis. The reality is that indy Wales should start by continuing to use GBP. It would be perfectly viable to continue on that basis until the policy decisions are taken and if necessary institutions created to move beyond that interim arrangement. My view is that we would of course… Read more »

JE Lloyd
Guest
JE Lloyd

Apportionment of national debt? By population, OK, but adjusted for the duscrepancy in per capita GDP between Wales and rUK

JE Lloyd
Guest
JE Lloyd

Armed forces— I favour leaving all of the existing personnel with rUK and simply taking back the estate and installations on our territory. The culture and purpose of a Welsh defence force would be so utterly alien to that of the Brutish Army that it would be better to build from scratch (as I think the Irish did)

JE Lloyd
Guest
JE Lloyd

Splitting of agencies? Yes, this would be necessary, but as part of an orderly transition plan spanning periods pre- and post-independence. There is no reason in principle why administrative services should not be provided cross-border during a transitional period