One of the arguments regularly used by independentistas who prefer not to talk about it is that the economic situation of Wales is too bad to allow independence at this stage. It’s an argument that I understand, but I have never understood why, even if it were true, it means that the case in principle shouldn’t even be put. Failure to make the case at all – even as a context for deciding which economic changes are required and in what timescale – looks more like electoral expedience than principled position. It also gives the impression that we need ‘someone else’ to fix things for us first; and actually, that is a greater argument against independence than Wales’ undoubted economic problems. A nation which needs ‘someone else’ to fix things for them doesn’t sound like a nation ready to take responsibility for its own affairs.
In any event, I’m far from convinced that our problems are as serious as they’re made out to be by a political class which actually seems to enjoy being in a state of dependence. I’ve pointed out previously that on the most commonly accepted measure of prosperity, GDP per head, Wales is in fact one of the world’s richer nations. And we are above the average for member states of the EU. If those other countries can be successful member states, what stops Wales emulating them? Why are we so ready to use only one single comparator – England – rather than taking a wider view? It’s as though we’re so dazzled by our nearest neighbours that we’ve fallen into their habit of believing that the civilized world ends at Dover.
Would we need to make changes in order to cope with becoming an independent state? Yes, of course we would; indeed, that’s the whole point. And since even a positive vote for independence tomorrow would still lead to a transitional period before independence actually happened, the government of Wales would have time during that period to start that process. Add to that the fact that there isn’t going to be a vote tomorrow – and since it appears unlikely that any party will even enter the 2021 Assembly elections with a promise to hold a vote, let alone win those elections and implement that promise, we can probably rule out a vote for at least ten years.I find it impossible to believe that any country with our level of GDP per head could not prepare itself adequately to take control of its own affairs in that timescale; and any political movement serious about achieving that aim would be setting out a route map towards that goal. It isn’t a soft option; far from it. It is a lot easier to whinge about other people letting us down than it is to take responsibility for putting things right ourselves. But if that’s the best we can manage, then perhaps we really aren’t ready even to consider the idea.