As reported in Wales Online today, Carwyn Jones has come up with the same old-knee jerk reaction to an independent Wales by saying,

Plaid Cymru would argue for independence. My view is that it would leave a 15% difference between what we raise and what we spend. Now that gap is not easy to make up, and for me that's why independence makes no financial sense.

Wales Online, 29 December 2012

Now it may well be true that there is a 15% difference between the two, and that it is a big difference. But that assessment has, to a large extent, to be based on assumptions because the Welsh Government steadfastly refuses to collect the figures in the same way as the Scottish Government does for Scotland in GERS.


However it is silly to use any difference between income and expenditure as a reason for not wanting Wales to be independent. In fact the difference between what the UK raises and what it spends is much greater than 15%, and the UK only manages to survive because it keeps borrowing money each year to make up the shortfall.


The figures for the UK's deficit are here, and the figures for UK public spending are here. By subtracting the first from the second, we can see how much the UK raises in taxes, duties and other charges. For the last three years, the figures are:

2009 ... income £465.2bn, spending £621.4bn, difference £156.2bn or 33.6%
2010 ... income £511.6bn, spending £660.8bn, difference £149.2bn or 29.2%
2011 ... income £559.4bn, spending £681.3bn, difference £121.9bn or 21.8%

So don't be taken in by a glib answer from a glib politician, even if he is the First Minister of Wales.

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Jac o' the North, said...

I think he's been overdoing the cooking sherry. If he was quoted accurately in the WM, or if I read it correctly, he posited the idea that if the Scots vote for independence then the English might leave the Union!

Leaving the Union consisting of Wales and Northern Ireland. We could then be the dominant partner in a Union that would last only until the inevitable majority for Irish re-unification. After which, Wales would be 'The Union'!

My head hurts . . . pass the cooking sherry.

Anonymous said...

Good post MH.

Carwyn Jones is leaving in clowd cuckoo land if he believes this UK Constitutional Convention is going to happen.

If the Scots vote Yes then he has no answer.

If they vote No the British nationalst backlash will be so great there will be no mood or dynamic for any constitutional change. It will be like the 1980s.

In any case, Carwyn Jones' big idea has no legs.

Like your demolition of Carwyn's anti Wales whinge, Carwyn Jones has no positive nor realistic vision for the country he's ment to lead.


Anonymous said...

If I'm honest. I'm getting a bit bored of the constitutional 'what ifs". Although I'm a nationalist, I just want the Scottish Referendum to be done and dusted asap so that London actually takes an interest in Wales.... rather than sucking up to the Scots!

Anonymous said...

Good blog. About time Carwyn had a vision for Wales instead of scaremongoring

Anonymous said...

some thoughts on this here: http://www.welshindependence.net/2012/07/what-price-independence-mabon-ap-gwynfor.html

Anonymous said...

I wonder what his Belfast, Irish Republican wife thinks.

Owen said...

And Carwyn was doing so well on the constitution until then....

I'd be over the moon if the Welsh "national deficit" was 15%. That implies a figure of ~£4-5billion (based on £28bn of public expenditure). Wales should be able to shave at least £1.5billion from defence and foreign affairs spending alone, and would be able to carry an annual deficit of between £1-2billion based on international precedents.

I suspect Carwyn has either been misquoted or got his figures muddled up. I'm sure he means a £15billion deficit, which would line up with what Gerry Holtham has said on it recently.

Anonymous said...

He's factually wrong, as usual. But it doesn't matter, as usual. The root of the problem is that a Welsh deficit (if calculated) would almost certainly be much bigger than the UK deficit, and bigger than most or even all EU member states or comparable countries.

Obviously we don't know for sure, but of we had a Welsh GERS we would still be stuck with the "we cant afford it" question which is the number 1 objection to independence from the Welsh.

Although, they definitely don't object to further powers. Just full independence.

Welsh not British said...

Very simple and effective. Also there is a GERW petition going before the petitions committee in the new year.

Anonymous said...

A 15% difference would be brilliant, compared to most economies. I wish he was right! In reality the Welsh deficit would be much bigger. Although with a GERW we would have the figures in front of us. Accurate data about Welsh finances is a must, and dedicated Welsh accounting at the Treasury (and ideally a Welsh Treasury of our own).

Neilyn said...

The question, as always, is how to get this point out to Mr and Mrs Davies so that they can see for themselves that a Welsh state is not only affordable, but an economically better proposition in the longer term. Plaid seem very slow off the mark to me with this.

MH said...

I think Carwyn was giving a glib answer that he hadn't really thought about. But I would remake my point (and Mabon says much the same) that being able to "afford independence" is a completely bogus way of thinking. If independence was in any way dependent on fiscal deficit, a large number of states (including the UK) could not be independent.

However, that doesn't mean that a large fiscal deficit is not a problem. It is, and every country that has one needs to deal with it ... whether that country is independent or not. So asking how Wales is going to reduce its fiscal deficit is perfectly valid. But we mustn't forget that the same question needs to be asked in countries which are already independent.

How we in Wales deal with our fiscal deficit (however big it is) is not, in essence, any different from how other countries deal with theirs. The two parts of the equation are public spending and the revenue from taxation. The Welsh government is currently unable to control either of them, and we need to get our hands on those fiscal levers before we can do anything to reduce our fiscal deficit.


Turning to the constitutional question, I do think we need to give Carwyn some credit for at least thinking about what will happen to Wales if Scotland becomes independent. In the main, Unionist politicians are refusing to think about it ... and that is why Carwyn is having so much difficulty in getting his constitutional convention off the ground. There'll surely be one after the Scottish referendum, but not before. But by then it might all be too late.

It's hard to figure out what he might mean by England leaving the Union but, trying to see things from his (or a general Labour) perspective I think he means something like this: That the current UK owes its shape to what Labour worked so hard to deliver after the Second World War. The classic welfare state, with public rather than private accountability for a wide range of services delivered through public funding. He, like everyone else, can see that England is moving in a different direction. It is fast becoming a more consumerist, market-orientated, deregulated, rich-get-richer-and-poor-get-poorer society will be much more like the USA than the social democracies of Europe. So from his perspective, England is leaving the UK, because it is leaving what he sees as its essential character behind.

And again, from his perspective, the only restraining force stopping England rushing even faster to the right is the Labour-voting Celtic fringes of Wales and Scotland, together with Labour's few remaining strongholds in the north of England. If Scotland (with 41 Labour MPs out of 59) leaves, the values that he sees as central to the UK will be lost.

What he, and Labour in Wales, doesn't understand is that very few people in England see the welfare state as the fundamental definition of what the UK is. Public opinion in England has fundamentally changed. The other thing he and Labour in Wales don't understand is that England won't need to leave the Union ... the Union will be England (plus a few insignificant bits which no-one in England recognizes nor cares about). Nobody in England will notice any difference. The UK ship of state will just carry on regardless, as it did when Ireland gained its independence. Losing a couple of limbs? "Tis but a scratch. It's just a flesh wound" ... as the Black Knight said.

To be continued ...

MH said...


This is where Carwyn shows his naïvity. He thinks Wales can be an equal partner in a federal UK, and has convinced himself that a constitutional convention will establish that sort of federal UK. But we can't be equal partners because we're outnumbered by 17 to 1. The English would never put up with Wales as an equal partner. All that could happen is that the regions of England get a similar degree of devolution to Wales (which many in Labour have wanted for some time, because they want greater local accountability, but don't want to wake the sleeping giant of English nationalism) ... however the result of that will be that Wales once more becomes, to all intents and purposes, just an autonomous region of Greater England. Labour in Wales (with a few exceptions) will find that intolerable.

So at that point, I think they will decide that it is better for Wales to be independent. As an independent nation Wales will be able to hold on to the core value of public services being provided using public money and for those running the services to be publicly accountable for the way they are run through the ballot box. This is vitally important because wide-ranging, comprehensive public services funded by universal progressive taxation are the main way of stopping the trend towards the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and instead creating a fairer, more equal and more inclusive society.


From our perspective as Welsh nationalists, we tend to think that the main reasons for wanting an independent Wales are nationalistic. But for Labour, the main reason for wanting Welsh independence will be economic and social, to create a society where the rich do not get rich at the expense of the poor.

The UK welfare state was a great achievement, but it is being systematically demolished in England—not just by the Tories and LibDems now, but by Labour before them—because it is something the majority of people in England no longer value or think necessary. But most of us in Wales do value it and think it necessary, even though the model needs adjusting to make it work better in more modern times.

Once Labour in Wales realize that they there is the public will to make such a society work in Wales, but that it has been lost in England, then Wales becoming an independent state will be an obvious and natural step for them to take.

Anonymous said...

Good post MH and good to see your take on Labour's thinking.

You're right, Carwyn Jones is totally delusional if he believes that a UK sans Scotland would be some kind of federal state. We've seen today how the BBC treat BBC Radio Cymru. It's downgraded to a local radio station which means it plays less to play Welsh music - which means less money to Welsh musicians while Radio Wales pays more which means in effect more money to London based and American musicians.

The point I'm trying to make is that Wales and Wales particular priorities, especially the Welsh language, are a total irrelevant to Wales.

Every time I travel to London I can feel how irrelevant Wales is to them. It's just not on the radar in any sense.

... still I'd have to agree with you, I think a significant section of Labour people would be happy to be part of the Elizabethan England (Elisabeth I that is). They'd prefere Wales to be an irrelevance as a) it's better than giving any power to the 'Welshies' as Chris Bryant would call us b) they'll hang on to the hope of a Labour government and kidd themselves to believing Wales will be an important and valued part of that Labour govt.


Anonymous said...

Some good comments on this thread. Neilyn points out the need to show to Mr and Mrs Davies that a Welsh state is "affordable" and that Plaid is "slow off the mark". I'm not so sure. Plaid has some very strong intellectuals on economic issues; eurfyl ap gwilym in particular. They would've looked at the figures and seen that based on available data (though there isn't much of it) a Welsh state isn't currently affordable because Wales doesn't generate enough revenue. This is the number 1 obstacle to Welsh people supporting independence. It's certainly the most common objection that I hear.

We need to shift the debate not to be just about independence or unionism (unionism will always win such a default question because it's such a safe conservative option) but about increasing Welsh revenues.

If the debate can be moved towards that other factors that MH has identified will start to come into play. We have a changing Britain , thanks in no small part to Plaid Cymru. Without Plaid I think Wales would not even be in Scotland's slipstream.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what MH says about the public will in Wales around welfarism and what we would call socialist or social democratic principles. But I don't think that's going to be enough of a reason to get enough Labour people in Wales (especially their voters) to support an independent Wales. It is one factor, but the projected deficit could outweigh it. The most convincing argument is that a Welsh deficit would endanger welfarist policies more quickly than a Tory government in England is, especially as the Tories don't perform as well in England as they used to.

We're in a really odd position. The aggression of Tory rule was needed to convince most people in Wales that devolution was a good idea. To go further down the road we "need" more Tory rule, but in electoral terms Tory rule helps Labour at the Welsh level because Tory policies are generally so unpopular with Welsh people.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Carwyn on this one. Wales will never be independent because there's no mandate for it or even the most basic economic case.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Carwyn. I think you're the best First Minister Wales could have.

Anonymous said...

I may be a little too suspicious about these things (= definitely am), but I saw brother Carwyn's statement as a rather cynical attempt to rally Welsh feeling against Scottish independence. I.e. it was just part of the 'no' campaign's orchestrated actions to set the mood music. I seriously do mean 'orchestrated' by the way (unless you believe that is not happening of course?)

This is one of Carwyn's regular contributions to the Darling campaign and its thinking goes like this... "Because we Welsh people are so servile and gutless, we are horrified and frightened by the prospect of our big protective brother leaving us to fend for ourselves. And he might leave if Scotland gains independence (codswallop of course), therefore Scottish independence is a bad and naughty thing. We are therefore against it." This sentiment feeds through the concentric circles of media and communication and contributes to the background mood music in the UK which will eventually influence individual Scottish voters one way or another.

Far too cynical of me I know. I should get out more...

Anonymous said...

10.04 - not cynical at all. Spor on. Same goes for the concerted leaking of anti Welsh language and culture.

My guess is that a Labour MP is phoning friends in the media. The idea is to create a feeling that Welsh culture is wastefull and elitist and so then feed the line to non Welsh spekers of, 'do you want these Welshies running Wales'. The line to Welsh speakers and those supportive of things Welsh will be, 'look how expensive your minority culture is. You wouldn't be able to afford it without English money. If the Scots go independent then you won't have any money to support your rubbish, wasteful, expensive language and culture.'

Anonymous said...

I see MH is delelting posts again which talk of migration into Wales despite them being relevant.

MH said...

When someone is fixated on a particular issue, they will see it as relevant to every subject and every discussion, Anon.

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