Monday, 12 September 2011

Small is beautiful: Busting the independence myths

Myth #1: Wales is too small to survive as an independent nation

Myth Busted:
Wales, a country of 3 million people, is not too small to survive as an independent country. It is a fact that there are over 100 other independent countries in the world that are smaller than Wales. In fact, of the top 10 wealthiest countries in terms of GDP per capita, 9 have a population of less than 5 million, and 7 of those have a smaller population than Wales.

Of the countries of the European Union, the six most prosperous are small countries:

EU Member State GDP per head (in PPP) Population
Luxembourg 58,900 0.5m
Ireland 32,600 4.2m
Netherlands 29,500 16.3m
Austria 28,900 8.3m
Denmark 28,600 5.4m
Belgium 27,700 10.5m
Economic prosperity is no longer secured through being a large country or empire nor by using military force to gain access to markets.

There is no longer a link between the size of a country and its economic success.

That a small country the size of Wales can prosper is evident.

Those that argue otherwise are either unable to accept the evidence for this, or must believe there is something peculiar about the people of Wales that means they’re incapable of making a success of things.

Myth #2: Wouldn’t Wales’s budget deficit be too big for it to cope?

Myth Busted:
The UK currently has the biggest budget deficit in the developed world.

The argument that Wales gets more in public spending than it pays in taxes is often seen as evidence that Wales cannot pay its own way. When you consider the deficit of the UK as a whole, the argument does not stand up to scrutiny.

There are undoubtedly economic challenges facing Wales. The current GVA of Wales is around 77% of the UK average.

The challenge to those who oppose independence on the grounds that Wales cannot afford it is to explain why being part of the United Kingdom has led to this poor economic performance.

It’s important to remember that Wales has historically been a creditor to the UK Treasury and more than paid its way over the years. Of course the wealth that Wales once generated, and will do so once again, did not remain in Wales for the benefit of its people.

Myth #3: People don’t care about independence. It’s a distraction from real issues that matter to people.

Myth Busted:
We believe that independence for the people of Wales is central to a prosperous economy and society. The quality of local services, job security, affordable housing which are the issues that affect people’s lives can be dealt with far better by an accountable, elected Welsh Government.

Myth #4: We’re stronger together! Why break-up Britain?

Myth Busted:
The ‘separatist’ label is often thrown around by opponents of Welsh independence. Do they think we’d somehow tear Wales apart at the border and move it somewhere else? The truth is we are the opposite of separatists. We want to be a full part of the international community and of institutions such as the European Union and the UN. An independent Wales would still be a neighbour to the other countries of the United Kingdom. There will always be strong, social, cultural and economic bonds between the people of the countries of the UK.

The difference would be that we could be a partner to the other countries with our own voice being expressed. This would make for a stronger relationship.

Myth #5: Most people in Wales feel Welsh and British and will never want independence.

Myth Busted:
In the modern world it is inevitable that people within Wales will have several identities.

Identity is a personal thing and is separate from questions of democratic accountability.

Personal identity does not necessitate support for a particular way of being governed.

Myth #6: Independence is irrelevant in the modern globalised world?

Myth Busted:
The inter-dependence of countries is a fact of modern life. We want to play our part in the international community. As Winnie Ewing of the SNP put it: “Stop the World, we want to get on”. Globalisation not only makes an independent Wales relevant; it also makes it a more viable prospect.

An independent Wales becoming a full member of global institutions such as the UN and playing a full part in the global economy would give Wales the opportunity to thrive.

No longer does being a part of a large country or empire provide an economic advantage, small countries have access to the same global market.

Myth #7: Wales would be kicked out of the European Union.

Myth Busted:
It has been officially confirmed that Wales, if independent, would remain within the European Union. Former Secretary General of the European Commission confirmed this, when discussing the case of Scotland:

“There is no precedent and no provision for the expulsion of a member state, therefore Scottish independence would create two new member states out of one. They would have equal status with each other and with other member states.

"The remainder of the United Kingdom would not be in a more powerful position than Scotland…Anyone attacking the claim in respect of one country is attacking the claim in respect of the other. It is not possible to divide the cases.”

Also, under the principles of the Vienna Convention on the Law of International Treaties, Wales would remain a part of the European Union, as would the other countries of the UK. The Convention states that an international agreement still applies to newly independent countries when a signatory state is broken-up.


Plaid Alyn and Deeside said...

But the Secretary of State for Wales said we were isolationists, does this mean that eurosceptic MP Cheryl Gillan MP is:

a)is a bit thick and doesn't know what isolationist means?

b) a hypocrite?


c) all of the above?

Cneifiwr said...

This will be a long haul, but I am starting to believe that we will see independence in my life time. Alwyn ap Huw puts it so well when he asks "Why should Wales be dependent?" That has to be one of the most powerful and thought-provoking questions heard in a long while.

Anonymous said...

I think you are overlooking the simple fact of demographic change. This year's census will reveal perhaps as much as a third of the population of Wales being born elsewhere, overwhelmingly from England. This process is accelerating and is to be experienced in all parts of Wales.
The vast majority of these people have no allegience to Wales or any semblance of a Welsh identity; and why should they? They are English or, at a pinch, British and will have no truck with separation.
If present trends continue and, as noted, they are accelerating, the majority of the people in Wales will simply not consider themselves Welsh.

Anonymous said...

Good article on the Independent Wales website:

Martin said...

Plaid Alyn & Deeside - the answer is C, do I win a prize? The selection of Cheryl Gillan as Secretary of State in the first place shows the utter contempt that this government has for Wales. A MP deciding things affecting Wales that only has to answer to an English electorate is frankly scandalous. In the run up to the UK General Election she was not even aware who the First Minister was (although, to be fair, Carwyn is a little anonymous).

We need to get the message that we can do this ourselves out to the public because the sooner we are free from the shackles of Westminster and its own self interest the better.

CHC said...

Let's take a look at the state of Luxembourg shall we?

Workforce: 60% of it's workforce and population comes from across borders with France, Belgium and Germany.

Industry: Major industries include steel, chemicals & rubber (as well as foreign owned banks (over 250 banks in an area of less than 1,000 square miles).

Cost of living:

Loaf of bread: £2.30
Wrexham: £1.00

Litre of milk: £1.04
Wrexham: £.50

12 eggs: £3.13
Wrexham: £1.25

Gym Membership: £60.00 month
Wrexham: £31.00 month

Gas/Electric: £1567.00 pa
Wrexham: £1044.00 pa

Rent (1 bed apt): £816.00 month
Wrexham: £375.00 month

Property price: £6k per m2
Wrexham: £1.4k per m2

Doesn't look so attractive now, does it? It's a basic tenet of economics that prices are dictated by what the market will bear. If GDP is higher, prices go up.

So, even if an independent Wales were somehow to mimic the economy of Luxembourg and turn us all into fat-cats, we'd still be no better off.

Plaid Whitegate said...

Not sure you've understood the idea behind the myth busters.

And I'd love to know where you can find a flat in Wxm for £375 a month.

The fact is that Wales is doing badly as part of a UK state that's dominated by the needs of the City of London financial sector. Independence, as this article shows, is viable and - I'd contend - necessary to improve prosperity.

If it's a basic tenet of economics that prices are dictated by what the market can bear, can you please explain the housing market's wild swings and lack of affordability for most people on average wages in a place like Wrecsam?

CHC said...

Take your pick of flats at or below that price here

I don't think I've misunderstood the point of the mythbusters at all. The point as I understand it is that Wales can stand on it's own two feet and holds up small countries such as Luxembourg as an example of this.

Please tell me if I've somehow misunderstood the "busting" of this particular myth.

Instead of me explaining economic theory to you (which would take far more than a comment in a blog post) perhaps you can explain how an independent Wales will stabilise the housing market and ensure the availability of affordable housing?

CHC said...

I'm also interested to know why Plaid continues to push for Welsh independence when a poll only 18 months ago said that only 11% of adults in Wales supported independence? Isn't the agenda of elected officials supposed to reflect the agenda of their constituents?

BBC article source here

Alwyn ap Huw said...

I haven't seen the poll that you mention CHC, if 11% supporting independence is 11% of all those of voting age in Wales it is higher than the number of votes gained by Plaid in both recent elections. If it is 11% of those who expressed an opinion then I will admit that it is disappointing.

If you look at the independence argument from a purely psephological point of view, rather than the rights or wrongs of independence; Plaid has had a problem over the last 30 years!

On the one hand not enough people support independence to make it a "vote winner" so it might make sense for Plaid to ditch the idea in order to make the party more electorally appealing (this is what Plaid has done for some time). On the other hand everybody believes that Plaid supports independence, so when Plaid has denied independence it has appeared untruthful and unconvincing; and by refusing to put forward arguments in favour of independence (that we all KNOW it supports) may have stifled both its own growth and support for independence.

I am not a member of Plaid, so my opinion is my own rather than the party's, but my opinion is that Plaid might do better by supporting independence and giving honest arguments in favour of independence, rather than denying independence. Such arguments might persuade more people to support independence and even more to see Plaid as an honest party that's worth voting for!

Anonymous said...

"If present trends continue and, as noted, they are accelerating, the majority of the people in Wales will simply not consider themselves Welsh."

Can anyone advocating independence address this issue?

Anonymous said...

Can just see the conversation going on....

Oops! We talked about an independant Wales again....

Yup! Nobody really cares, but a couple of people are asking awkward questions

Let's move on and just ignore them, they'll go away...