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Opinion

Why I support Devo-Max for Wales

21 Jul 2023 4 minute read
Mike Hedges Senedd Constituency Member for Swansea East

Mike Hedges MS

We have had three devolution settlements for Wales, and we are no closer to a long-term settlement than we were before the first.

The latest poll by Beauford Research showed the two extreme positions having very little support, with abolish the Senedd with 17% and Independence on 16%.

What we need to do is make devolution work for the people of Wales.

In Britain we have seen different devolution settlements for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as different areas devolved to London and the larger city regions of England.

We have what is meant to be a reserved powers model in Wales, following the most recent settlement, but the host of reservations within supposedly devolved areas makes a mockery of such a definition.

I support Devo-Max which gives fiscal autonomy and is a particular form of far-reaching devolution that has been proposed for Scotland and Wales.

The term has come to be described a constitutional arrangement in which instead of receiving a block grant from the UK Exchequer as it is at present, the Scottish Parliament or the Senedd would receive all taxation levied in Scotland or Wales.

It would be responsible for most spending in Scotland or Wales but make payments to the UK government to cover Scotland or Wales’ share of the cost of providing certain UK-wide services.

This would need protection because currently Wales raises substantially less than it receives in the block grant and a balancing method of funding is needed to ensure Wales is no worse off than it is now.

Benefit

Surely the question to be asked is what needs to be controlled by Westminster in order to benefit the whole of the United Kingdom as opposed to what each ministerial department desires to keep under its control.

There are the obvious areas that need to be held centrally such as defence, foreign affairs, national security, currency, interest rates, overseas aid, immigration, driver and car licensing, central bank, and National Insurance numbers.

If most or all those areas are devolved, it is called independence not devolution.

There are those it is worthy of discussion over whether they should be devolved or set centrally, the list below is not an exhaustive one:

  • Should we have one state pension age and amount for the United Kingdom or should each jurisdiction set its own?How would that work with movement between England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland?
  • Should we have one unified social security system or should each jurisdiction be able to set their own contribution levels and payments? Same question as above.
  • Should alcohol and tobacco duty be same to avoid cross border movement?
  • Should there be UK taxes to pay for the centrally funded items with all other taxes devolved and collected locally?

How will financial support from the wealthier to the poorer regions be organised and maintained despite the statements of YesCymru, Wales is a net beneficiary of the sharing of resources.

Everything does not have to be devolved to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland or the English city regions at the same time.

What we need is a list of items which are available to be devolved with each Parliament or Mayoral area needing at least two-thirds of members voting in favour before it is devolved. This is what happened in Northern Ireland when
policing was devolved.

This avoids “big bang” devolution where control of everything passed on one day but allows for matters to be devolved as the parliaments and Mayors are ready for them and funding agreed.

The advantage of this is that it sets an end point of the devolution journey outside of creating new countries. It allows every area to move at a pace it is comfortable with but with a common end point.

Devolution in Wales does not have to end in Cardiff. Devolution within Wales is possible to the four regions Wales. What powers would be better devolved to local authorities needs to be discussed and decided.

The twentieth century was almost a one-way movement of control away from local councils including water, further education, and policing.

The question surely should be where the best decisions will be taken for the local population and that is not always in the Senedd.

Devolution in Wales is a journey, but it must not be a journey that only ends in Cardiff. For true devolution, powers will also be devolved to the regions and councils of Wales.


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Gareth
Gareth
8 months ago

We are a ” net beneficiary ” , so much so, that the royal family get a pay rise on our backs, and we get nothing,because we dont need the money from the crown estates, as we already benefit . Indy is the only way.

Annibendod
Annibendod
8 months ago

We are not “net beneficiaries” Mike. The UK notionally runs an internal deficit wrt tax/spending in/on behalf of Wales. Something that people in Wales have absolute zero democratic influence over. It’s not Wales’ deficit. It’s the UK’s. Furthermore, we are net contributors to UK infrastructure at least insofar as capital expenditure in Wales is significantly less than the UK average. The UK economy is deliberately biased towards banking and the services sector in and around the City of London. If Wales is indeed poorer, it is only poorer for being in the UK. Mike, how can you justify that a… Read more »

Last edited 8 months ago by Annibendod
Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
8 months ago

There is one big big hurdle with devo max – it’s called Westminster. Westminster has to agree to and abide by it, I doubt very much it will do either. Forget halfway houses – it has to be full independence, that is the only way we will be able to eventually drag Cymru out of poverty.

L'écureuil
L'écureuil
8 months ago

Mike, how about devo-max, but also devole military, foreign affairs and have a UN seat? Now that’s called independence, and that’s what Wales needs. Doesn’t sound extreme at all now does it?

FfredapFfred
FfredapFfred
8 months ago

I love the ideas of devo max, federalism and confederation. Unfortunately for me, Westminster hates and will always hate those ideas. The only option that Cymru can choose, that Westminster cannot block forever is independence. The only real options for Cymru are independence or gradual erosion of devolution and reassimilation into the Kingdom of England. I know which I prefer!

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
8 months ago

If we ever got devo max from a (presumably) Labour government (not that I believe Starmer would ever do it) it would end as soon as the Tories got back in at Westminster.

James
James
8 months ago

Why is independence considered “extreme”? That’s a situation where the people of Wales get a 100% say in what happens in Wales. The only extreme is the abolish option, which I imagine is majority supported by people who’d be 6 feet deep within the next 10 years.

CJPh
CJPh
8 months ago

Every person gaining political office in Wales should receive a 1 month crash course in pre-industrial Welsh history and have a weekend trip to Dublin,taking the Easter Rising tour, going to the National Museum and discussing how the nation works with a Teachta Dala.

Richard
Richard
8 months ago

Gwynfor and the founders always kept clear of ill defined words like independence with its wide catch all – mean nothing connotation . Self determination and a confederation were their aims exemplified over generations. The world, European and Celtic links were seen as developing mutual respect with equality and respect at the core. The family of nations binding together the rich and the poor; the north and the south of a planet were interdependency and the environment sat with ease next to local communities empowered and engaged. Mike who I remember well from our days as local authority leaders has… Read more »

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard

If Wales was an independent nation which will be a member of the UN we would be able to join EEA, EFTA and then the European Union. The European Union was set up by independent countries within Europe to co-ordinate their policies, free trade etc as a confederated union based on self determination. The UK is a centralised union with reserved powers held in London. They will never give us, in Wales nor Scotland, devo-max and self determination as that will weaken their hold on us. Wales and Scotland have natural resources such as our potential for energy created from… Read more »

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
8 months ago

I’m beginning to wonder what planet Mike Hedges is on. wherever it is the residents can’t count. The latest poll gives 32% overall in favour of independence and over a half of young people in favour – a worrying statistic for Welsh Labour’s reliance on scaring older people with them wicked tories….. Quite where the 17% to abolish the Senedd comes from is a mystery; during the last Senedd elections abolish candidates achieved the dizzy height of 2%. If he bothered to do the maths or indeed the many articles and comments on N C and elsewhere, he would know… Read more »

CapM
CapM
8 months ago

Perhaps Mr Hedges could write a follow up piece –
Why the party I belong to does not support Devo-Max for Wales

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