Thursday 30 August 2018

Planning for independence

As part of his campaign to lead Plaid Cymru, Adam Price announced a ‘seven step plan’ at the weekend, setting out the route to independence as he sees it.  It’s pleasing to see someone making an attempt to set out how we get from here to there, but when I read the detail, it looks more like a rehash of Plaid’s existing position (that independence is an aspiration for the future and anyway Wales is currently too poor) and a plan for a political party to seek power within the existing institution without frightening the horses than a realistic assessment of the next steps.
The plan places a dependence on Plaid winning two Assembly elections before holding a referendum.  That is a wholly artificial dependency.  For sure, it took two elections ‘won’ by the SNP before Scotland held a referendum, but that was because they formed only a minority government in their first term and there was no majority in the Scottish Parliament for a bill calling a referendum.  The real dependency here is that question of a parliamentary majority – it requires only one election victory for a party or group of parties committed to holding a referendum to be legitimately able to call one.  It could be, of course, that Adam is assuming that any election victory by Plaid in 2021 would be as a minority administration rather than a majority.  It’s not an unrealistic assumption, and if that were to be the case, then it would, of course, be necessary to postpone any referendum bill until there were a majority.  And it’s equally true that a minority government committed to a referendum would probably reflect, at best, a lukewarm public attitude to independence.  But if a party commits to not holding a referendum until it has won at least two elections, then it ends up with no legitimate mandate to hold such a referendum even if it were to win the first election overwhelmingly. 
There’s nothing to disagree with in the suggestion of ‘building new Welsh media’, although it’s something which is easier said than done, and there is an inevitable lack of detail about the ‘how’ at this stage.  And whilst it’s clear that the lack of such media at present hinders any meaningful debate about independence, placing a dependency on building that media before moving to argue for independence looks like placing an unnecessary obstacle on the route.  The real obstacle is that people in Wales are unpersuaded; simply blaming the media for the failure of independentistas to convince people of the case is disingenuous.  It’s the responsibility of independentistas to find the means of convincing people, not to blame others.
Nor is there anything to disagree with in the desire to ‘grow the Welsh economy’ as such.  However, placing a dependency on ‘closing the fiscal gap’ is another matter entirely, and is my main point of disagreement with this ‘plan’.  In the first place, the so-called ‘fiscal gap’ exists only as a result of a particular set of calculations based on a particular set of assumptions, one of which is that Wales remains part of the UK.  Not only is that not a good starting point for any independentista, it demonstrates a subservience to UK-based thinking and the sort of economic theory which gave us ‘austerity’; and it’s completely the wrong way of assessing how wealthy Wales is.  A much better basis is to look at an international comparator such as GDP per head and assess where Wales stands compared to other independent countries.  I’ve posted on that before, but without going through the detail again, an objective assessment of Wales’ relative wealth puts us in the top 30 world wide (out of around 190 countries) and right in the middle in terms of member states of the EU.  There’s work to be done in terms of setting alternative policies, creating the institutions and so on, but economically, there is no obstacle to independence other than those created by following a UK mindset.
We can be independent any time we want to be – the only real obstacle is that we independentistas have not created that desire for independence.  And I don’t see how the seven step plan addresses that.

1 comment:

Spirit of BME said...

I totally concur with you that Mr Prices great plan is a “rehash of Plaid current position” which he has reheated.
The get-out clause for doing nothing about independence is that Wales is “too poor” and will have to wait before the English system and administration decides to make Wales richer – why would they do that?!!! What is most sad about this position, is the total lack of vision and its timidity.
Singapore became independent overnight with nothing, but the first prime minister Mr Lee Kuan Lee clear strategy was “to develop Singapore`s only available natural resource: its people “and today that country is a leading financial centre and its education system tops most international education tables. To do that in Wales, you would have to declare a bold policy of abolishing the current educational system, break the current teaching contracts and retrain those currently teaching.
I fear none of those standing in this election is of the “right stuff” to turn anything around and project confidence to the people of Wales in their future, they are “career safe” and conservative by nature.