Opinion

Why doesn’t Westminster just ditch Wales?

27 Oct 2021 5 minutes Read
Photo by Ming Jun Tan on Unsplash

Gareth Ceidiog Hughes

The First Minister has recently suggested that successive UK Government have viewed Wales as “ungrateful and ever-demanding subsidy junkies”.

If Mark Drakeford’s analysis is correct, and I suspect that it very much is, then it raises an interesting question, which is why doesn’t Westminster just ditch these burdensome Celts?

Why doesn’t it unburden the English taxpayer and kick these uppity little scroungers from the Celtic fringe to the kurb? What incentive is there at all to keep Wales in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

Forgive me if I sound too cynical when I tell you that I don’t believe that it is out of an overwhelming sense of generosity. No, it is not an overflow of the milk of human kindness, in my estimation.

So if these aren’t the reasons then what are they?

Many of these answers to this question can be found in Strength in Union, a collection of essays by an array of Conservatives on the rather touchy subject preventing the UK from breaking up.

It is a fascinating cocktail of pomposity and anxiety. Oh boy do they know they’re in trouble. But they can’t stop themselves from being ridiculous as well as patronising towards Wales despite it being a hindrance rather than a help to their ultimate aim.

Theresa May comparing being Welsh to being a Yorkshireman was a highlight. But my favourite claim in the magnum opus was that Wales benefits a great deal from Kensington travel agents.

The nub of it is this. They are frightened of losing their status on the world stage.

Essentially they believe Wales exists to augment, to buttress, to enhance England’s power and influence. A loss of Wales would be a loss of face. They do not say that of course. But that is the subtext.

UN Security Council

There is much talk of the UK’s permanent seat on the UN Security Council. They fear losing the UK’s permanent seat on the body and the veto that comes with it.

It is framed as something Scotland could lose in an essay by Lord Hague of Richmond. But then we get to the rub. He said: “So too would the rest of the UK’s influence at the UN wane in the event of Scottish independence.”

That seat, which let’s face it, Wales and Scotland have pretty much no control over, makes the UK feel like a big player on the world stage. It is not merely a practical instrument for shaping world affairs, though that it is. It is a status symbol. The UK sits on the Security Council alongside the US, France, Russia, and China.

The body was formed in the aftermath of the Second World War, when the British still controlled a vast empire. At that time, Britain could reasonably claim to be a world power. There are now newer and bigger kids on the block such as India. A reduction in Westminster’s territory would enhance their claim to the seat.

The UK clings on to it as a bankrupt aristocrat might hang on to a hereditary title. It is vestige of former its former glory. If the title is taken away, then what else is left?

Nuclear subs is also framed as something the Scots could lose despite the SNP trying to actively get rid of them both for moral reasons and because of the substantial price tag.

But again, Westminster is not worried about Scotland losing its nukes. Westminster is worried about Westminster losing its nukes. These are also a status symbol. The Westminster establishment rather likes being part of the nuclear club and would feel it keenly were to lose its membership because it could no longer afford the fees.

‘Saying the quiet bit out loud’ 

In an astonishing instance of saying the quiet bit out loud, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley suggested loss of Welsh troops “would diminish” the “military capabilities” of England.

Wales contributes a disproportionate amount the British Armed Forces and gets very little in return.

The First Minister told the Senedd recently that Wales provides nearly twice its population share in terms of armed forces personnel “yet we have half our population share in terms of the basing strategy of the armed forces.”

He said Wales has 5% of the UK’s population, provides 9% of the UK’s service personnel, but added that only 2.5% of them are based in Wales.

We put more in and get less out.

The trick that is pulled in this collection of essays is to conflate Westminster’s interests with that of Wales and Scotland. They do not necessarily align and are quite often in direct opposition.

Westminster may well wield more influence because it controls Wales. But in whose interest is that influence wielded? Is it ours, or theirs? Should we exist merely to make them feel more important?

Westminster may not care about Wales, but it does care deeply about its own status on the world stage. Were we to leave, it knows that it would be diminished.

The status of Wales on the other hand could be greatly enhanced at its expense.

They couldn’t allow the Welsh to do that, could they…?

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
31 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
William Glyn THOMAS
William Glyn THOMAS
1 month ago

England, over many centuries, often used mercenaries to fight their wars. Waterloo is a prime example. I imagine the military do not keep statistics to show which of the four countries in THE Union suffer the most casualties on behalf of the English Crown. I suspect far fewer Englishmen die for their country than soldiers from the Celtic countries.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago

I agree, they fear the break-up of the UK will lead to a loss of face and their imagined influence around the world. However, that loss of influence has already happened and with brexit and renegading on trade deals that international influence has greatly declined further. There is no reason why the British Isles can not still be an influence around the world as a collection of independent countries. After all that is what the EU is. The thing is, they fear as much about the loss of control across these lands as they do regarding the loss of face.… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago

Although we have an irritating habit of shuffling about with the begging bowl the plain truth is that we remain a cheap source of so much for the London centric regime,

In reality we are begging for the return of that which is taken from us. Not “has been taken”, but “is taken and will be taken” unless we stop it.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

Because we are more important to England than they dare admit. Our dams in Mid & North Wales send billions of gallons of water into the English Midlands every minute.

And our Hydro-Electric power stations also provide power to the National Grid that lights English homes , hospitals & businesses.

So in reality it:s England who are the Welsh resources junkies. Turn the taps off then you’ll see who has the real power.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago

Why doesnt westminster just ditch Wales? Simple they need our water….just as they needed our coal and steel in the past. Westminster govts – tory or labour – see Wales as a place to be easily and cheaply exploited 😡 . And they’ll continue to do so for as long as we in Wales allow westminster to get away with it!

Mawkernewek
1 month ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

Don’t forget carbon offsetting. Wales and Scotland may be obliged to use their land to offset rUK’s emissions as well as their own, for tree planting and other such projects.

Biodiversity could also come into this, with the somewhat dubious concept of “biodiversity net gain” to legitimise doing damage, if you can argue you’re making improvements elsewhere. Could a rewilding project earn “biodiversity offsets” so someone can build a motorway somewhere else?

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 month ago
Reply to  Mawkernewek

Boris is doing his best from the top of his head.

Dean Jonathan
Dean Jonathan
1 month ago

While only having 5% of the population, we will supply 20% of their electricity come 2050 according to National Grid, due to our huge offshore resources

Gareth Wyn Jones
Gareth Wyn Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  Dean Jonathan

With little benefit for wales of course

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
1 month ago

It’s partly about losing reputation abroad, partly about the fear of real loss of geo-political influence and power, partly about fear of losing free exploitation of Welsh resources, and partly a psychological blow to their self-esteem. First-ever colony, remember?

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
1 month ago

Little England would be greatly diminished without Scotland and Wales, at the moment most people in the world think that the UK and England are the same thing something many English people also think or are happy to allow, Also where else would English people be able to buy cheap holiday homes, ignoring the local language and thinking they are still in England?

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Owen

Brexit is changing most images of Eng/tain in Europe, as well the image of the “Polite English gentleman” taking a huge nosedive. The real gents of England seem to regard politics as a cesspool, which is a pity, so we have to struggle against the sewer rats. But Scotland, and now Wales are, at last, recognised.

Last edited 1 month ago by j humphrys
Mathew Rees
Mathew Rees
1 month ago

That’s easy – water and valleys cannon fodder. But it’s OK because in return we get sinecures for Welsh speakers and S4C!

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
1 month ago

I agree with the sentiments of the article. However, I am concerned that the independence argument is becoming a Wales vs England argument (although the article is careful not to overstate that). We would never win that for size, financial reasons etc. and most Welsh people would not support that argument anyway. Besides, despite the English nationalist elements, many English people are our friends and family and many love Wales. We should not alienate them. The problem is the Westminster system. We should concentrate our argument on that, whether it be reforming or leaving the UK. A good example for… Read more »

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

Good point. This is about the Westminster Government, not the people of England, not all of whom are dismissive or offensive in their attitude towards Cymru.

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

Try Estonia, lot of foreigners left after indy. Slovakia had not many settlers?

Dafydd
Dafydd
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

Yes vital we bring English ( and other) immigrants along with us too – have to emphasise the broken Westminster system at all costs. The newly arrived may not recognise it at first but after years of residency they’ll no doubt pick up that there’s something very lopsided about the way Westminster ‘rules’ Britannia.

Cymru is an absolute insignificance to them and more and more of us are realising that as each day goes by…when a majority know and ‘feel’ that fact … Independence day will be near!

Tewdwr
Tewdwr
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

I think I disagree in the sense that English culture does have the potential to oblierate Welsh culture if just 10% of English people moved here. I’m not saying they would but we need to be cognizant that you can love English people and still not want mass in migration to Wales.

There are fundamenta problems of inequality in the relationship between English and Welsh culture because English society is 10 times larger and we could potentially miss that if we just say ‘westminster is the only problem’.

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.