Dr. Dai Lloyd, Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for South Wales West
Too small. Too weak.
We’re better off stronger in the United Kingdom.
We can’t do it alone. Now is not the time.
When I say that Wales could be an independent country, these are often the responses I get.
We’re told that Wales could never survive on its own outside the UK. We’re told that our economy is too weak to support itself as an independent state. We’re told that we’re too small to be taken seriously as an independent country.
But the truth is that Wales is not unique. The world is full of small countries like Wales who were once told that they were too small to be independent – and they proved wrong.
Take Malta for example. An editorial in The Times dated January 1959 said:
“Malta cannot live on its own. Its economy will always have to be married to that of another and stronger country… the island could pay for only one-fifths of her food and essential imports; well over a quarter of the present labour force would be out of work and the economy of the country would collapse without British Treasury subventions. Talk of full independence for Malta is therefore hopelessly impracticable.”
Malta – an EU member state with a population of roughly 450,000 and at least three vibrant living languages spoken daily – Maltese, English and Italian, gained its independence from the UK in 1964 before becoming a republic in 1974.
With human development index that is one of the highest in the world, Malta has an advanced economy and central bank, the second highest voter turnout in the world, a long history of providing free publicly funded health care at the point of delivery and free public education at all levels. LGBT rights in Malta are also of one of the highest standards in the world – even when compared to other European countries.
Just like every other small country that gained its independence from the UK, Malta seems to be doing just fine.
The same can be said of our close neighbours in the Republic of Ireland, who have a higher GDP per head than Wales and the rest of the UK.
Across Europe there are a total of 18 independent nations with a smaller population than Wales, so the notion that we are too small simply doesn’t stack up.
We all want to be independent individuals. We all want to do things for ourselves and decide our own future. We all want to be able to stand on our own two feet. Wales as a country is no different.
If we accept that Wales is a nation in its own right and if we accept that Wales is a country just like any other country in the world then we accept that independence is the natural step for us to take.
But does Wales even want to be independent?
Opinion polls carried out on Welsh independence will yield various responses. Some find support as low as 5% whilst others place support between 10% and 25%.
But the questions of support for Welsh independence often refer to voting intentions on the basis that a Welsh independence referendum would be held tomorrow.
So what if we began asking the question differently?
What if we asked instead if people would like to see an independent Wales one day?
The results could be very different.
Many people are supportive of Welsh independence in principle but are sceptical of how possible it is – and whether it would work.
This is why we need to begin conversations with our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues on why Welsh independence isn’t only possible – it’s necessary.
The United Kingdom isn’t working out for Wales.
As a part of the UK, currently 23% of people in Wales live in poverty. Development projects such as rail electrification and the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon, that could have boosted Welsh economy and infrastructure, have been scrapped with little care. Westminster refuses to give Wales any power over justice, policing, welfare or our water.
Perhaps it is time for a different approach. Perhaps it’s time to take charge of our own affairs.
Independence could be that different approach. It could be the tool we need to build and shape our country and its economy so that Wales can reach its fullest potential.
Independence wouldn’t be an end. It would be the beginning of a brand new chapter.
Imagine what we could do.
We could transform our infrastructure. We could strengthen our media and our democracy. We could become a world leader in public health, care and education. We could establish our own central bank. We could stand tall on the world stage as social rights pioneers.
Wales currently stands at a crossroads. The uncertainty of Brexit is upon us and as the UK becomes increasingly right wing and reactionary it risks taking Wales down with it.
We have an opportunity to create a country that’s different. We have an opportunity to create a country where everyone is equal and free from prejudice and discrimination. We have an opportunity to use all our assets and power to construct a sustainable economy that would result in a better country where improved quality of life for the people who live in it.
This all needs to begin from the ground up.
We need to have a full and open debate as a country about the kind of Wales we want to live in and how independence can help us achieve that vision.
I believe that Wales will be an independent country one day – but we have to make it happen.
The will is there. Let’s build our country to achieve it.
Will you join me?
Dr. Dai Lloyd will be taking part in a discussion ‘Independence for Wales: The way forward’ today, Friday 10 August at 2pm in the Llannerch at the National Eisteddfod in Cardiff Bay. He will be joined by author Catrin Dafydd, Yes Cymru Chairman Iestyn ap Rhobert. Nation.Cymru editor Ifan Morgan Jones will be chairing the discussion. There will be an opportunity to ask questions. This event will be held in Welsh.