Westminster has left Wales behind – only independence can save us now

Picture by: Harshil Shah (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Phil Jones

If you’re used to flying from English provincial airports, taking a trip from Cardiff Airport is quite a strange experience.

The lack of flights and a general absence of hustle and bustle that one experiences elsewhere is immediately apparent.

Indeed, compared to almost nine million passengers that used Bristol Airport last year, Cardiff Airport – Wales’ largest – handled less than one-fifth of that figure.

Why is any of this relevant to an article calling for a debate on Wales’ continued place within the United Kingdom?

Well, you may have missed the astonishing story that Westminster has again refused to devolve air passenger duty to the Welsh Assembly.

The reason for the rejection by Westminster? Apparently scrapping air passenger duty in Wales could have an impact on Bristol Airport.

Yes, you read it correctly, attempts to give underperforming Welsh tourism and our struggling economy a significant boost have been prevented because of the impact it could have on an English provincial airport.

Now, you might well argue that if air passenger duty were devolved you wouldn’t want to reduce it anyway, as it might also drive up carbon emissions from airplanes flying out of Wales.

However, it’s quite clear that this isn’t the reason why Westminster isn’t keen to devolve the tax – it’s because it could lead to a million passengers leaving Bristol for Cardiff.

Whether you agree that the Welsh Government should lower the tax or not, what this case makes clear is that the UK Government will never throw Wales’ economy a bone when it might disadvantage over England’s economy.

To add insult to injury, Bristol’s airport is actually at capacity and they would need to redevelop it to expand further – all while Cardiff airport has plenty of room left.

I.e. they would rather have to expand an English airport than use a Welsh one down the road.

When a British union that’s supposed to spread wealth and prosperity to all of its component parts starts acting against the interests of its most deprived nation it’s time for a change.

Neglect

It’s not as if this is a new phenomenon either.

In recent years we’ve seen Westminster scupper rail electrification in south Wales, whilst Welsh taxpayers continue to fund HS2 and Crossrail.

Westminster cut, cut, cut anything that could bring wealth to Wales while allowing projects in London to go billions over budget.

London – already the richest part of western Europe – continues to draw in transport spend while Wales – one of the poorest – survives on breadcrumbs.

The only ‘investment’ Wales seems to get is when we’re to become a dumping ground for what England doesn’t want.

The coast off Cardiff has become the final resting place for ‘nuclear mud’ from England’s Hinckley Point C nuclear power station.

This is while the nearby project to develop a landmark tidal barrage off Swansea was canned by Westminster.

The UK Government’s only big idea relating to infrastructure in Wales has been to rename the second Severn Crossing the Prince of Wales bridge.

This was despite widespread opposition and very little support. They won’t invest in us – but they do want to remind us of our place.

With Wales’ post-Brexit future now in the hands of a Tory Cabinet that probably hasn’t given the country almost any thought in their deliberations, it’s easy to see why the Welsh independence movement is on the rise.

Do we really want people who not only neglect us but seem to go out of their way not to try and develop our economy ruling over us?

Even for those of us who are anglophones and have traditionally voted for unionist parties, the penny is finally dropping.

Without powers to control our water supply, energy generation, infrastructure and media we are destined for terminal decline.

Clearly, there would need to be a sizeable change in voter opinion for independence to become a reality here.

But with Scotland edging ever closer to leaving the union and a border poll looking likely on the island of Ireland, events are moving quickly.

We need to get ready to push for what we were once conditioned to believe was the unthinkable or there seems every chance that we’ll get left behind as the union dissolves.


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