Opinion

Why the Welsh independence movement is worth millions to Wales’ economy

30 Oct 2021 4 minutes Read
Picture by Yes Cymru Caerfyrddin

Ifan Morgan Jones

When the UK Government announced yesterday that £160m would be spent to develop wind farms off the coasts of Wales and Scotland the official reason given was that both countries had “deep waters”.

This didn’t really stack up as a good reason for singling out Wales and Scotland for investment – there are deep waters all around the coast of England, too.

The real reason was briefed to the Telegraph in this morning’s newspaper who revealed that the aim was to “help to strengthen the Union”, with waters off Wales and Scotland “pinpointed” for that reason.

In other words – the squeaky wheel gets the most oil. And Wales’ growing independence movement has made Wales’ wheel squeaks louder than ever before.

Wales’ independence movement has become a very effective tool for crowbarring tens of millions from the Treasury’s coffers.

This is likely to be an unpopular truth with both sides of the debate – Unionists because they don’t want to recognise that having an independence movement is an effective political tactic, and independence supporters because they are loath to recognise any UK Government largesse.

But the UK Government now have a clear tactic when it comes to saving the Union. Spend big, showy dollops of cash in Wales and Scotland and slap a Union Jack on the finished projects.

In the aftermath of the first independence referendum in Scotland, Wales’ former First Minister Rhodri Morgan called for Wales to be rewarded because “the country didn’t put the whole of the UK through the mincer via referendum or civil war” as Scotland had.

But politics doesn’t work that way. Docile Wales didn’t get anything. It was Scotland, the disobedient member of the UK, that was subsequently showered with attention.

Wales has now learnt that lesson. Threaten to leave and you will get better treatment. Top tip to Yorkshire which has just had its leg of HS2 cancelled – get yourself a separatist movement.

Lumps of cash

However, the UK Government’s new preparedness to splash some cash on Wales does not of course mean that the tactic will work as a means of saving the Union.

The best comparator here would be the EU, which spent some £800m on Wales in the last decade of membership but was ultimately rejected at the ballot box.

EU flags adorned buildings and bypasses up and down Wales and yet people seemed mostly oblivious to where the money came from – or didn’t care.

Hundreds of millions spent by the UK Government on new floating offshore wind farms for Wales are unlikely to have any impact, either. And not only just because the average voter won’t even know they are there.

The levelling up fund announcement as part of the Budget during the week was another good example of this. £121m of funding will go to 10 specific schemes in Wales as part of that fund.

The UK Government had ignited a huge political row with the Welsh Government just so that they could be seen to be the ones to bestow this money on Wales.

And for what? An aqueduct restored here, a new path dug there, some work on a canal. Big numbers in a press release but it will have a very small measurable impact on the lives of very few people.

The reality is that people would rather be given the opportunity to generate their own economic worth rather than simply being handed big, individual cheques and asked to be grateful.

Real levelling up will involve investing in the fundamentals holding back the Welsh economy, including terrible transport infrastructure – such as rail, where Wales has been underfunded over 10 years to the tune of £500m.

Announcing big multi-million pound projects won’t amount to much unless Westminster fixes the fundamental economic inequality between different parts of the UK.

The irony may be that despite triumphing in an independence referendum of their own over the EU, the Brexiteers may never have understood why the EU failed to connect with the people of the UK.

If throwing hundreds of millions at individual projects was enough, Wales would never have voted out.

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Glen
Glen
30 days ago

How will offshore wind farms benefit Wales?
Our seas are just another resource being exploited by Westminster.

Dean Jonathan
Dean Jonathan
29 days ago
Reply to  Glen

Not greatly, other than jobs, until we get the Crown Estate devolved like Scotland has

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
30 days ago

I agree with the article, the Tories believe that by making it look like they are showering Wales with money it will show the Welsh how great the UK is. They are so colonialist in attitude, so blinkered as to what is happening on the ground in Wales they don’t realise that what they are doing is actually achieving what they want to prevent the breakup of the UK.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
30 days ago

Some of the English Westminster Government excuses for choosing Wales and Scotland when it comes to wind farms and their reasoning farcical. Bit like how Wales is too hilly for a direct North South rail route where HS2 goes through the spine of England and that’s not exactly flat. It’s called bull*#’;@. Only Wales & Scotland’s Senedd & parliament should debate the merits and decide whether those coastal waters are indeed suitable not the unelected English dictocracy in London. I find also when the sly Tories announce those minor infrastructure builds in Wales & Scotland are compared to the English… Read more »

Dale McElwee
Dale McElwee
29 days ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

There are more windfarms on the East of England

Cos it’s flat like.

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
28 days ago
Reply to  Dale McElwee

And they are welcome to build as many as they want or need there. Not here, though. They’ve built enough here already. It goes without saying that wind farms are greener than fossil fuels, after you’ve allowed for the necessary deforestation and road-building, but that’s self-evidently an issue for the Senedd to decide on, not Westminster, especially as there is little financial benefit to this country from wind farms built here.

Gareth Wyn Jones
Gareth Wyn Jones
29 days ago

So direct benefits form offshore farms, it is just another looting spree, just like our coal and steel and Scotland’s oil. If Cymru was independent we would be able to harness our own renewable energy for our own good and improve lives of residents in many ways. This will never happen while manacled to the greatest exploitation machine the world has ever know, Westminster.

Quornby
Quornby
29 days ago

But Gareth Wyn we “own” 5% of an aircraft carrier.

Dean Jonathan
Dean Jonathan
29 days ago

The £160 m was announced last December in the white paper! But the only one trying to get some for Holyhead is Rhun ap Iorwerth MS.

Dean Jonathan
Dean Jonathan
29 days ago

To my knowledge, this £160 m for the U.K. is already being dipped into, but the only port to benefit so far is Teeside and maybe Hull

Dean Jonathan
Dean Jonathan
29 days ago

According to National Grid, come 2050 50% of U.K. power will come from Wales and Scotland. England cannot get to net zero without our offshore wind capacity

hdavies15
hdavies15
29 days ago

Spend a billion on wind farms in Wales’ offshore zones and very little if any of it will trickle down to Wales to add to its people’s spending power. Most of it will go to a mix of globalist corporates and their offshore subcontractors and suppliers given that UK government has done a good job of stifling any hopes of indigenous manufacture and services. No doubt some fat slugs in the City will be doing alright and Boris & Co will sleep soundly.

Dale McElwee
Dale McElwee
29 days ago
Reply to  hdavies15

What will happen after Independence. Will someone seize them?

Gareth
Gareth
29 days ago
Reply to  Dale McElwee

You were asked a question by Defaid several hours ago, no answer yet.

Dale McElwee
29 days ago
Reply to  Gareth

Keep your hair on.

institute for Government.

defaid
defaid
25 days ago
Reply to  Gareth

defaid’s question has been culled along with 24/41 other comments and the truth is that I can no longer remember the conversation.

Dale makes me think, a bit like MR-R used to but without the hilarity… What did I ask and, Dale, why haven’t you answered?

Llywelyn ein Llyw Nesaf
Llywelyn ein Llyw Nesaf
29 days ago

Errm…’deep waters’ aren’t really a plus-point for offshore wind. It increases the cost of construction. Much better to build where there are shallow waters far off-shore – e.g. Dogger Bank etc in the North Sea. Deep waters will be good for tidal turbines!

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