We need to remember why we’re fighting for independence
Rhys ab Owen MS, Plaid Cymru spokesperson for the constitution
As I write this, almost a third of Welsh children are living in poverty.
Let that sink in.
200,000 children in Wales living in absolute poverty.
A damning indictment of the legacy of Westminster. If that isn’t a reason to fight for Welsh independence, I don’t know what is.
For Plaid Cymru, it’s never been about independence for independence’ sake but rather for the thousands of families whose futures depend on Wales becoming a fairer, more prosperous and equal nation.
That was true before the election and it’s true now.
Independence for Wales remains our long-term raison d’etre simply because we want to make the lives of people better.
That better future will not be served by being a member of an unequal nation.
An unequal nation where universal credit payments given to support the most vulnerable are set to be cut by £20.
An unequal nation where we don’t get the Government we vote for.
An unequal nation where the cost of living is rising while people’s incomes are falling.
An unequal nation where the Conservative Government at Westminster continues to undermine Wales and our Senedd.
An unequal nation where the gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider and wider.
An unequal nation where most of the wealth is centralised in one city – London.
An unequal nation where Welsh taxpayers’ money is spent to pay for expensive projects like HS2 that won’t ever benefit us, whilst projects such as electrifying our railways or the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon are ditched.
An unequal nation where the cronies at Westminster stumble from one mismanaged crisis to the next – the Coronavirus pandemic, dodgy trade deals, Afghanistan.
But if Wales became independent, we wouldn’t be bound by such inequalities.
We’d get the Government we voted for every time.
We would have the power to control our economy – and make it thrive.
We would have the power to make our own decisions over our future.
We would have the power to enact real change to benefit the most vulnerable in our communities.
I have no doubt that we could do it.
GDP of Wales is approximately £73bn (2018), this makes Wales the 70th richest country in the world, out of around 200 independent countries. GDP per capita of Wales is approx. £21,000 (2018), the 36th highest in the world (out of around 200) meaning Wales has on average higher wages than Portugal, Spain, Czech Republic & Greece.
On a global scale, Wales is therefore relatively wealthy.
Our tax revenue per head is higher than New Zealand.
In an article in early 2020 Professor Mark Barry of Cardiff University rejected the idea that Wales might be too poor or too small to be independent. If that was true, he said, Wales would be unique, the only place on earth where an independent country of three million people could not survive.
The key question is whether our economy and well-being is best served by the Westminster elite, or by something more common across the world – i.e. taking control of our affairs as an independent nation.
We’re also an energy rich country with 15 percent of the whole of Europe’s tidal power.
We already export twice as much electricity as we use and are the world’s 6th biggest electricity exporter.
We could do more, but Westminster consistently fails to invest in Welsh projects such as the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon which would generate even greater economic benefits to the country.
An independent Wales would not have to wait for the Westminster Government to fund our ‘green’ projects and we would be free to take advantage of record low interest rates to pump prime our economy and invest in green energy projects.
We could take full advantage of our wonderful natural resources which could deliver significant tax revenues and income to the Welsh nation.
Also, what about transport? In transport terms the UK has failed Wales badly.
Wales has 11% of the UK rail network but only 1% of investment in recent years.
Transport spending per head in Wales is less than half that in London, which has seen a succession of multi-billion pound rail projects over recent decades.
Welsh tax payers are contributing billions towards HS2 despite the damaging effect on the Welsh economy. Meanwhile, there will be no Carmarthen to Aberystwyth or Aberystwyth to Bangor rail link – we’ll still have to travel through England to go from south to north Wales.
We could develop a Swansea Bay and Western Valleys Metro too – but the Westminster Government simply don’t provide a fair share of funding to deliver it.
Investment in infrastructure is vital towards improving economic performance. It’s time that Wales took full control of our transport infrastructure with the freedom to invest and prioritise our infrastructure.
I truly believe that Wales can be independent, and we’d all be better off because of it.
So, whether we are marching all under one banner or engaging in conversations on social media, we need to take that energy and belief we have in an independent Wales and translate it into conversations with our fellow countrymen – street by street, community by community, to those who remain unsure or nervous about independence but are willing to listen.
Independence is possible. Independence can happen. Independence is the norm. It is time for Wales to join the international stage.