Time to Watch the High Road


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In or around 2015, Scotland will hold an Independence referendum. If the Scots vote Yes for Independence then that will result in the obvious break-up of the United Kingdom as a nation-state. No UK Government could reject the democratic will of the people of Scotland. Many seem to have assumed that Scotland would not vote Yes for Independence. Many of those probably also assumed that Scotland would never vote for a majority SNP Scottish Government, but they did – last May. SNP Leader, Alex Salmond is the strongest Leader of any UK political party at this time. He has a formidable team of Ministers and tacticians around him. The Scottish Tories and Labour are in disarray, and without Leaders. The LibDems have a Leader, but no party. Alex Salmond, as Scotland’s First Minister, is focussing on building the economy and investing heavily in renewable energies. Scotland will be internationally centre-stage in 2014, hosting both the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games. At this point, there is most definitely a momentum towards Independence in Scotland and support is growing.

However, Alex Salmond is a horse-racing fan, and as such is fancying an each-way bet. The referendum will also offer a Question on, what is becoming known as, DevoMax. This would be full fiscal autonomy. Although the SNP will support Independence, some leading figures in the Labour Party are now urging their party to support DevoMax.

It is very possible that events in Scotland in the middle part of this decade will fundamentally change or end the UK, as we know it. The model of devolution since 1999 has already created an unsustainable and unequal relationship between the constituent countries of the UK nation-state. With a vote for Independence in Scotland, could the remainder of the nation-state (England, Wales and Northern Ireland only) be a nation-state at all? With Scotland taking its place as an equal partner on the European and world stage, people in Wales and Welsh political parties would have to seriously consider the implications for Wales. That debate needs to start now – otherwise we will be floundering as a country in 2016, not knowing which way to turn.

In Wales, the newly-appointed Silk Commission will consider aspects of fiscal devolution and transfer of further responsibilities to Wales over the next couple of years. This must lead to a Wales Bill towards the end of the current UK Parliamentary period and the Secretary of State for Wales needs to confirm now that this UK Government will provide time for such a Wales Bill during this UK Government’s time in office. Otherwise, the Silk Commission’s work could be a waste of energy and opportunity. However, the Silk Commission itself must keep an eye on what’s happening in Scotland, otherwise its work could become irrelevant and over-taken by events in Scotland and their implications for what’s left of the UK.

Plaid Cymru knows our constitutional aspiration for Wales. We have no idea how other political parties view the future for Wales during the next decade, if the United Kingdom nation-state breaks-up or changes fundamentally. It’s time for those parties to get their heads out of the sand, because Wales needs to start debating these issues – within Wales, and with Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.