I am Welsh. I am also British, however I choose to identify with the term British based on the pure geographical fact that almost all of Wales is located on the island of Great Britain, and the entirety of the country is based in the archipelago of the British Isles (not to mention the extensive familial ties with the other nations in these islands); not to align myself with the British State. In a geographical sense, Wales is a British nation. We share deep cultural and social links with our sister nations in these islands, but we have our own identity and our own needs nonetheless. Nothing will ever stop us from being British (unless we strap rockets to Offa’s Dyke and jettison ourselves somewhere else, in which case can we move somewhere a tad more tropical?;)) but there is nothing stopping us from being independent either.
We are no more important than England, but we are not any less either.
As a student in Swansea University, I find myself as the only Welsh person in a house full of puzzled English people; I’m not some nasty anti-English nat that the media loves to portray us as, however as my political stance and support for a Welsh sovereign state is well known it has led to some colourful conversations in the living room to say the least. I must say it is merely regarding curiosity to how Wales could afford to be independent, that pesky “funding gap” seems to always crop up. They say that Wales is reliant on the money of English taxpayers, and I say that there is truth to that, however this is not a topic that you can just blurt out one line and be done with it — there’s much more to this tale than what meets the eye.
Allow me to expand. Wales is as it currently stands a recipient of money from taxation from Westminster in order to run its affairs, any quick google search will tell you that the tune of said figure currently stands at £15 billion (although for the sake of sources I found this figure from here). Now to begin the argument, I shall start by stating that almost every country spends more than it earns, the US of all nations to the tune of trillions. Whilst it is obvious that everyone would rather be in the black rather than the red, national debt is very much a common occurrence rather than a blinding apocalypse that unionists would rather the Welsh populace to believe. Being in the red is not the end of the world.
Secondly, we need to consider our political climate. With the current political make up in the Senedd, although Labour are still in power they know well that they cannot rely on votes from the Tories and UKIP without shooting themselves in the foot. After the wild conspiracies of a yellow/blue/purple rainbow coalition following the First Minister vote, they know Plaid would have a field day. Now I ask you to take yourselves back to the Ask The Leader debates, specifically the one with Leanne Wood in Aberystwyth. The question of Welsh independence and the funding gap was brought up, to which Leanne commented that Plaid’s 2016 manifesto was “all about closing that gap”. With the levers that Plaid demanded in order to withdraw Leanne’s name from the race, there is a serious possibility that some of Plaid’s own manifesto commitments could make their way into legislation. There’s already whispers of a sort of Welsh Development Back coming to light considering it was a mutual thought between Labour and Plaid. We never know what could crawl out of Cardiff Bay over the next few years, even with Brexit now upon us, there is a chance that the funding gap could close anyway. Maybe in a miracle scenario, the Welsh labour MPs will actually start prioritising the strengthening of the Welsh Assembly so that it can make more of an impact.
Thirdly, let us look at the current methods of business taxation. International companies that operate in Wales tend to be registered in England, more specifically London. So when a company pays its taxes, they are payed in London and are therefore regarded under the current taxation system as English, as that is where the company is registered. It would currently be impossible to say how much that funding gap would close if those taxes were regarded as Welsh taxes, however I daresay that they may very well plug a huge hole in that funding gap unionists love to rattle on about, especially when one considers that Wales has a trade surplus to the tune of £5billion.
And lastly, let us consider if money from English taxpayers would really go away. Now I bet heads would tilt in confusion at this remark, but let us really consider it. I tend to grumble whenever someone mentions that English money is just handed to Wales on a platter. We currently find ourselves in a position where Wales produces far more energy than the energy than we use(at one point we produced more than double in recent years!), yet we have absolutely no authority over it. We seem to be in a position as a nation where despite the fact that we have issues with fuel and energy due to the high prices in Wales, we’re creating much more than we need. The rest of our energy goes over the border, not that England pay for that specifically due to the fact that the British State unites us. Just picture a world where England could continue taking our energy but actually have to pay for it specifically, and then remember the fact that Wales has the potential to be a powerhouse of green energy. The very thing that could be one of our economic cornerstones we’re just giving away for free! It’s like coal all over again. The same goes for our water, at an IndyWales rally in Carmarthen following the aftermath of the Brexit vote, Adam Price put it perfectly by saying that an independent Wales wouldn’t turn off the taps in England, but we would actually expect them to start paying for our water. Again, we can only speculate about how much money this would pump into our economy, but the consequences of these actions seem to be making this apparent funding gap seem smaller and smaller.
I consider this as one of my main reasons for supporting Welsh independence. I grew up in the Valleys, I’ve seen the poverty, I’ve seen how the system turns a blind eye to both our potential and our problems and just dubs us as leeches. If we took control for ourselves, if we made decisions for our benefit, maybe we can turn our fortunes around. Maybe we can stop being seen as a nation desperately looking at its next door neighbour for constant financial support. Maybe this, alongside with a competent government, we could transform this land we call home and create a more prosperous land.
In conclusion, whenever someone says that Wales “can’t afford” to be independent, remember what I tell my housemates, remember these facts. Remember how much tax there may be payed in England whilst the business also operates in Wales. Remember that we have a practically untapped energy sector what could play a major part in the salvation of an independent Welsh economy. Remember that whilst the Welsh Government doesn’t have its hands on all of the levers, there are steps that they can start taking to plug that hole anyway. And just think of what we could do with the current Welsh taxpayers money if it was spent solely for our public services and infrastructure. And if a student who studies Ancient History of all subjects can come to this conclusion, what exactly is stopping the rest of us?
Our ambition can be endless if we will it, the Welsh populace needs to see this.
This article was first published by Kieran Ieuan Sawdon on Medium