Disaggregated tax receipts for Wales

While reading this story about the proposed Scottish Oil Fund that will be established when Scotland becomes independent, I noticed that HM Revenue and Customs had only yesterday published, for the first time, a set of "experimental" figures which estimate the tax take from the four nations/regions of the UK. The links to the documents are on this page.


For Wales this is a major first, and its importance cannot be overestimated. This information has been produced for some time for Scotland in the form of GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) and for the Six Counties in the form of NINFBR (Northern Ireland Net Fiscal Balance Reports) but the Welsh Government has never asked for or itself produced an official equivalent for Wales ... although estimates have been produced by Oxford Economics and by the Holtham Commission.

I know Gerry Holtham has urged the Welsh Government to follow the example of both Scotland and the Six Counties, and he believes they have not done so because the situation is so serious in Wales that they think it would be better not to tell the patient exactly how bad things are. That's one way of looking at it. The less charitable explanation for their refusal to do so is that no government would want to draw attention to how bad things are because it would only increase public pressure on them to do something about it.

For me, it is only by finding out exactly how bad the economic situation is in Wales that we will be able to properly direct our efforts to improve it. And indeed this is reflected in Plaid Cymru's renewed emphasis on our economic performance in launching Offa's Gap last year. Owen Donovan did a comprehensive analysis of the situation here.


This is what HMRC say about the information they've now published:

This publication apportions total UK tax receipts, tax credits and benefit payments administered by HM Revenue and Customs to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It attempts to measure the true economic incidence of taxation, based on the underlying activity, which can often differ from how or where the tax receipts are collected. Actual administrative data is available for capital gains tax, inheritance tax, stamp duty land tax, child and working tax credits and child benefit; for the others, the estimates are arrived at using best available data and statistical techniques, including assumptions and adjustments where necessary. The numbers in this publication do not represent an estimate of the tax revenue that would be raised if each tax was set at the devolved level.

All statistical methodologies have an inherent degree of uncertainty and, for this publication, a variety of alternate methodologies could justifiably be applied, each leading to a different estimate.

The full data are available on the page I linked to above, but I have extracted the cash and percentage figures for Wales for 2012-13. Wales has 4.8% of the UK population.

Based on actual administrative data

Capital Gains Tax ... £64m ... 1.6%
Inheritance Tax ... £83m ... 2.7%
Stamp Duty Land Tax ... £139m ... 2.0%
Child and Working Tax Credits ... £1,545m ... 5.2%
Child Benefit ... £573m ... 4.7%

Based on estimates

Total Income Tax (Gross of Negative Tax Credits) ... £4,763m ... 3.1%
National Insurance Contributions ... £3,689m ... 3.6%
VAT ... £4,170 ... 4.1%
Corporation Tax (onshore) ... £830m ... 2.4%
Bank Levy ... £30m ... 1.9%
Bank Payroll Tax ... £0m ... 1.9%
Fuel Duties ... £1,311m ... 4.9%
Stamp Tax on Shares ... £4m ... 0.2%
Tobacco Duties ... £451m ... 4.7%
Spirits Duty ... £143m ... 4.9%
Beer Duty ... £183m ... 5.4%
Wine Duties ... £139m ... 3.9%
Cider Duties ... £27m ... 8.4%
Betting and Gaming ... £68m ... 4.1%
Air Passenger Duty ... £8m ... 0.3%
Insurance Premium Tax ... £124m ... 4.1%
Landfill Tax ... £50m ... 4.5%
Climate Change Levy ... £35m ... 5.5%
Aggregates Levy ... £22m ... 8.2%
Customs Duties ... £103m ... 3.6%
Other Taxes ... £17m ... 4.8%

Total receipts

Total ... £16,337m ... 3.5%

It's not a pretty picture. We have 4.8% of the UK population, but generate only 3.5% of the UK's tax receipts. In terms of the big taxes, we generate only 3.1% of income tax, 3.6% of NI contributions, 4.1% of VAT and 2.4% of corporation tax.

However it must be emphasized that many of these figures are based on estimates, that these estimates are each based on a particular methodology, and that different methodologies might result in different figures. This why, for example, the Scottish Government produces GERS instead of relying entirely on UK Government figures. It is now open to the Welsh Government to do the same thing if it believes that using different methodologies will present our fiscal situation in a better light.

In terms of political reality, the publication of these figures is almost guaranteed to spur the Welsh Government into producing a GERW because they no longer have the option to hide how bad the situation is from the Welsh people, and will now have to spend effort trying to make the situation appear less bleak in order to lessen the pressure on them to improve things. Some of it will be justified (for the UK Government has no incentive to make things look good for Wales, and may well have made wrong assumptions that need to be corrected) but some of it will be spin. We will have to decide which is which, in just the same way as people in Scotland have to decide between differing interpretations of Scotland's overall fiscal situation. That's politics.

However the importance of the publication of this data by the UK Government (and the intention is to publish them every year) is that official figures are now in the public domain to be analysed, discussed and argued over. It is only by facing up to how bad things are—and what, in particular, is bad—that we can target our efforts towards making things better.

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Anonymous said...

I once worked in England while living in Wales. Who got credit for my income tax?

Jac o' the North, said...

These figures are interesting but nothing more, relating as they do to a poor, internal colony which, due to it's poverty, will obviously 'contribute' less in taxes than wealthier parts of the State.

Inevitably these figures will be seized on by those wishing to assert that 'Wales can't pay her way', which may explain why the figures were produced. So what's needed is a strong counter-argument pointing out the distorting anomalies such that mentioned by Anon 14:20.

Also, the money leeched out of Wales by the Crown Estate and other agencies that most people know nothing about. The case for Wales having the potential to generate more wealth must also cover the power to implerment new taxes and demand equitable arrangements for power generated in Wales, water exported, ships docking at Milford and elsewhere, etc.

But I can't see this being done. Because all parties in Wales - for differing reasons - accept the 'pocket money' block grant arrangement and are reluctant to think outside that box.

Owen said...

It's worth taking Council Tax and NDR into consideration, which would add another ~£1.8-2bn to the £16.33bn highlighted here. That would put total tax take in Wales to at least £18billion, which broadly falls into line with previous estimates.

Based on the last Welsh budget (£15.4bn) - and taking into account the nominal £2.6bn Wales pays towards UK-wide services - then I'd guess the national deficit is still around the £8-12billion range (if total public spending in Wales was between £26-30billion). So I doubt it's changed a lot down the years.

There's unquestionably a large deficit based on current verifiable expenditure - we all knew that anyway - and you have to wonder if an independent Wales would spend the same amounts of money on the same things (i.e defence), and factor in things like shares of national debt, debt repayments and whether all spending reported to be spent on Wales actually is spent in Wales (i.e. criminal justice).

As to why the figures are so low, I'm not sure if all of the changes have come into force yet, but moves to raise income tax allowances for low earners (of which we know there are a lot of in Wales) could've shaved tens of millions off the income tax figure alone.

If Wales had full responsibility of income taxes and needed to raise funds, my favoured option would be to create more tax bands (i.e reintroduce the 10% band for the lowest earners and create a 30% band) and cut tax allowances instead of raising tax rates themselves.

Then you've got to factor in the size and profitability of Welsh-based businesses (which impacts things like corporation tax), tax-relief schemes from the UK Government, and residency which Anon 14:20 points towards. The figures perhaps point to a stagnant economy that's not seeing any significant growth.

You can argue that the Welsh Government simply doesn't need to publish these figures because, as Jac hints at, there's no vested interest for them to change anything other than saving face and proving their not as much a drag on UK spending as we currently are. They can comfortably carry on, knowing they don't have to worry about fiscal deficits (unless serious fiscal powers are devolved) and simply manage the budget or - if Silk I ever comes into being - fiddle with the lesser-yielding taxes so they can pretend to take responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Does the corporation tax figure include the "Welsh share" paid by companies like TESCO/Shell/HSBC etc who operate in Wales but have head offices elsewhere, as they would if we were independent?

Anonymous said...

What's most surprising is how important the big three are, income tax, national insurance and VAT. All of which would increase if the welsh government focused on meaningful job creation in the private sector. Silk will give some incentive to act (as would business rates as in Scotland). VAT assignment would also help. Most of these assumptions are based on a GVA share, I.e. 3.5%. Raise that figure and things start to look rosier in terms of tax receipts.

From WG point of view, the tax base is so low now would be a good time to 'purchase' tax devolution off the block grant and benefit from the growth that we undoubtedly have potential for.

Still, it's right to point out that potential taxable goods/markets like the energy we export and the water we send over the border aren't measured. With fracking on the agenda we should ask who are we fracking for?

Anonymous said...

I agree with many of the points made above, although water isn't necessarily the earner some people believe it would be.

MH said...

If you look at the methodology document, you'll see that these income tax figures are on a residence basis, 14:20. Oxford Economics (and others) have estimated the difference between taxes on a workplace and residence basis, for example here. Wales raises more when things are calculated on a residence basis.

The same document shows the methodology for corporation tax, 19:27. It is part-calculated on registered office location, and part-calculated on the number of employees in each country.


You're right to point out Council Tax and NDR, Owen. The published information is only for what HMRC is responsible for collecting/distributing. Vehicle Excise Duty (worth £5,600m to the UK and probably £250m to Wales) isn't counted as it is collected by the DVLA. Nor are fines, which are collected by the courts. Nor, I guess, are things for which a commercial charge is made (like Crown Estate leases). I'm sure there'll be others too.

I'd agree that there was no incentive for the Welsh Government to produce a GERW. But I think this will now change things. This represents how the UK Government sees things, so the pressure will now be on the Welsh Government to correct anything that they see in a different way. Obviously they will have a political incentive to do so.


I don't think we should ever be afraid of people saying that Wales can't pay its way, Royston. I think we also need to bear in mind that even though there might be anomalies or different interpretations of the figures, they won't change things very much. There isn't a hidden pot of gold somewhere that is being ignored, not least water, for 22:23 is right to say that water isn't worth very much.


It is remarkable how little money is raised by the minor taxes the Labour Party want to see devolved (stamp duty land tax, aggregates levy, air passenger duty, landfill tax) and I think Wales shouldn't get any substantial borrowing powers until or unless part of a major tax such as income tax is devolved. Not least because the intention of the WG seems to be to reduce stamp duty and air passenger duty to stimulate these sectors, making any borrowing more unaffordable. If (as now seems set in stone) we will only get income tax varying powers after a referendum, we need to have that referendum before we get the borrowing powers. As I said here, borrowing without actually being able to reap the return on that investment through a higher tax take and lower benefits bill is economic madness.

One of the other things that struck me is how substantial the taxes on tobacco and alcohol are: just short of £950m. As these are very closely related to heath, which is a devolved issue, I'd have thought that joined-up thinking would make these ideal candidates to be devolved. Taxing alcohol is a better bet than setting a minimum price for it.

Anonymous said...

You can not say what the tax revenues of an independent Welsh state are until it exists nor its expendicture. If there is a short fall as sugested then it is condemnation of United Kingdom government of Wales which is obviously not working.

Anonymous said...

All nations, it seems are 'too poor to be independent' but once they gain independence they aren't as this book shows in a general way: http://www.carreg-gwalch.com/product/phenomenon_of_welshness_2_the/

However, these figures not good for Wales. But for me they are a weapon for us to use to show how bad being a part of the UK has been. It shows the status quo is not an option. Are we seriously going to carry on doing the same mistakes and just fuss about with minor changes?

We're poorer as part of the UK, we've tried that and it hasn't worked, lets try something new - self-government and then independence?


Anonymous said...

Very interesting figures. They have also been analyzed by the excellent Wings over Scotland site( a fantastic resource for anyone wanting to follow the Independence Referendum issue from a grass-roots perspective).

These figures pan out as follows since 1999( Tax revenue/per head of population): Scotland 109%, England 102%, Northern Ireland 87%, and Wales as you can imagine at the bottom of the pile at 73%- although I accept that there are some mitigating factors with this as pointed out by some contributors.

There was one comment on the site suggesting that the release of these figures at this point in time is a more or less an acknowledgment by the Westminster Government that Scottish Independence is inevitable from an economic point of view- but a shot across the bows to Wales not to have any such ideas!

Even so, it is important that these figures are now available since they are sure to embarrass Welsh Labour who have ruled Wales for the past 14 years, and they can stimulate a wide ranging debate how we can improve our circumstances.

Recently, I attended a seminar held at the Pritchard Jones Institute at Niwbwrch, Ynys Mon, where former MP Adam Price presented research based on his Flotilla Effect report, showing how certain small countries are now out-performing larger countries, even in the current European recession.

One of the success stories he flagged up was the Basque Country, which is very similar to Wales population-wise and the percentage of people speaking the national language. Of course, the Basque Country is an advantageous position because they still have an industrial base to their economy. But another key element in their economic success over the past 30 years identified by Basque politicians is cultural solidarity. That is, the promotion of Basque language and culture is more than just the affirming of an ancient identity- it is seen as crucial social and economic driver.

When one considers the prospects for Welsh Independence, our own cultural solidarity is one of the "hidden" dimensions which has the potential to be truly transformative for our society and economy.

Who knows- one of the slogans for our own Independence campaign in future may well be: "It's the culture, stupid"!.


MH said...

I've said before that one plank of the argument for independence in Scotland and Catalunya is that they can afford to be independent, M. But for us in Wales the argument is that we cannot afford not to be independent.

One thing we cannot say is that we will only consider independence when we have closed the gap with the rest of the UK, but I think there's a danger of Plaid getting side-tracked on this issue. It's self-defeating in the sense that if we do close the gap, it will be used as "proof" that being in the UK is a good thing. So the key is not so much trying to improve our economic performance, it is to convince people that our economic performance will only improve to the extent that we are able to make our own decisions to suit our own interests.


The figures do show Scotland in a good light, and will certainly help the Yes campaign, AGJ. One illustation of the point I've made about the Welsh Government now needing to produce its own version of the figures is that this HMRC report uses a different geographic division of the North Sea from the one used by the Scottish Government in GERS, resulting in a £600 million per year difference, according to this report in the Telegraph. So it's an example of either "different methodologies" or "cooking the books" according to your perspective.

And yes, I agree that greater cultural solidarity is one of the factors in small nations that enables them to do better than larger ones. We are already demonstrating that in non-economic ways. Things like free prescriptions and the organ transplantation act could happen first in Wales because of a more consistently strong sense that it is right for us as a nation to do things like this. Others followed us, or will follow in due course, but the fact that we were able to act first on these issues illustrates that we would be able to act much more quickly in steering the direction of the economy too. The active travel bill is another first that should have far-reaching consequences in terms of future public health.


And for those who haven't read it, the Flotilla Effect can be downloaded here.

Anonymous said...

MH is right, this is an indictment of UK policies and of the failed governance of Labour in Wales for the best part of a century. Even for those who don't want to go for full independence the Basque arrangement is a good template.

You're also perfectly right to highlight Plaid's mad assertion that they won't debate independence until the economy in Wales improves. It can't improve - unless we go for short term rentier economy of building lots of houses which will give a mini boom for 5 years (Labour's prefered strategy it seems to me) - until we have powers to do something serious.

The 'Too Poor to be Independent' book also makes a case for using the Welsh language as a way to promote work and keep money within the Welsh economy; comparing the Shetland Isles and Faroe Islands. It's a bit too subtle an argument to use in general discussion but it does point to the fact that we need to re-assess the whole Welsh economy and how it's run and for whom.

We need independence or at the very lease substantial tax varying powers to get to grip with our problems. The challenge for Plaid is that it's very hard to see how Plaid can fight for a large welfare state when the economy is so weak. Also, if welfare payments in Wales were 'too generous' we would see people moving here to sign on (as we already do). In one respect, the Tories policies make the argument easier for independence because there will be a small welfare state to support in the future.

MH said...

That particular "mad assertion" hasn't been made by Plaid, 15:05. I said something a little more subtle than that, namely that there was a danger that it could happen if we weren't able to present a clear message about our relative economic performance only improving to the extent that we make our own decisions, geared to our own strengths.

And it isn't a matter of "independence or nothing". If we are able to make some decisions, then we should be able (if we make the right ones) to make some difference. If we are able to make more decisions then we will make more of a difference. I'm quite prepared to take it step-by-step; but we should never stop saying that once we are independent and are able to make all the decisions that other countries are able to make, it will make all the difference.

As for the welfare state, I think you're making the mistake of seeing it as something that costs money, rather than as a more cost-effective way of providing what we would all have to pay for anyway if the only provision available were private. This means that the welfare state makes more sense for a poorer economy than it would for a richer one ... although that is no reason for a richer country not to do it too.

Anonymous said...

I notice corporation tax is quite law in Wales.
My question is where does the tax for e.g Tesco stores count for? Where it's head office is I assume.

But in an independent Wales Tesco would pay corporation tax on it's stored in Swansea, Cardiff etc wouldn't they???

If this is the case then the CorpTax figure is wrong as v.few businesses have their head offices here in Wales.

MH said...

As I said before, the methodology document sets out the assumptions, and in these figures corporation tax is part-calculated on registered office location, and part-calculated on the number of employees in each country. The tax on the trading profit is based on where the employees are, the tax on other profits is based on the head office location. Without knowing all the details, this seems to be fairly reasonable, although I think it would be better to base it entirely on how many of its employees are based in each country.

I think that one long-overdue change would be to require companies to produce accounts on a regional basis, including the regions of England. This will be particularly important if/when corporation tax gets devolved, as has been on the cards for the Six Counties, and might well happen in Scotland too. When Wales becomes an independent country, then any sizeable company operating here would have to set up a subsidiary for tax/accounting purposes.

But bear in mind that large multinationals (Amazon, Starbucks and Google, to name three high profile examples) will "adjust" their accounts across borders if they are allowed to, in order to minimize their tax liability.

Welsh not British said...

Jane Hutt has no interest in a GERW. Her original response to my petition was to state that they already produce reports on what they spend. This indicates she even didn't understand or didn't want to understand what a GERW report would entail.

My response to this was "...it would be a good barometer for the financial climate of Wales and act as a target that the Welsh Government's successes and failures could be measured against."

Hutt's response to this was that this report was coming out from London. And it's a damning indictment of the sham of a union and the Labour one party state we have become.

What people must remember though is that there are no money trees in England. The UK has to borrow hundreds of millions of pounds every single day. The difference with us is we are told how to spend it. And even if we do have tax raising powers, unless we oust Labour then the powers will only be used within Carwyn's precious rules where nothing can benefit Wales if it affects the rest of the UK (England).

We're a pathetic nation, a cowardly lot. We need a national party with the primary goal of independence. Scotland has one, why don't we?

MH said...

I think we both agree that a GERW is necessary, and for the same reasons, and that the current Welsh Government has stubbornly refused to produce it before now, Stu (WnB). So the real question is whether the publication of these figures will change that.

It's good to see that Martin Shipton at the Western Mail has now caught up with the story, here, and that he's managed to get a selection of reactions from the political parties.

The important reaction is from Labour. As I'd expect, their first instinct has been to rubbish the report as "incomplete and misleading", especially in regard to not having a breakdown for the regions of England. So does this mean that when/if Labour get into government at Westminster, they will expand the HMRC report to cover this? We could press them on it and try to get a commitment.

However I'm willing to bet that the WG's initial reaction was to say, "What? Only 3.5%. We thought it was closer to 4%" (this was the figure that Rhodri Morgan used to cite, and I don't think he would have plucked it out of thin air) and have got a team of civil servants going through these figures right now trying to see if different methodologies will produce better figures for Wales. If they can do this, we can expect Carwyn Jones or Jane Hutt to say so when they are next questioned in the Senedd; but in order for what they say to have any credibility, they will have to produce detailed figures of their own ... in other words the GERW we've been waiting for.

These HMRC figures may be "official", but that doesn't necessarily mean they are correct. I noted before that the assumption they made for the geographic share of North Sea revenues was £600,000 a year lower than GERS. Obviously Westminster want to make things look as bleak as they could for Scotland (not that they succeeded), but they'll almost certainly have made equally "loaded" assumptions for Wales. We just need people to start digging into the detail, and that's what civil servants are for. Just give them time.


And of course you're right to say that the UK economy is still in crisis; that the deficit has not been brought under control; and that debt is therefore continuing to rise. But that doesn't really help us in Wales.

Anonymous said...

A really interesting debate. The problem is, the interpretation that the Welsh are "cowardly" and "pathetic", therefore the solution is a party that puts independence across more strongly, is misleading. The SNP didn't win the 2007 or 2011 elections through independence. It won through good governance and winning key seats. They certainly used a patriotic narrative, and even a cursory glance of the Plaid website shows there is patriotism in abundance. The similarities end there though. Scotland is not Wales. It's already been independent. It makes sense that devolution has led quickly to a referendum there. It makes sense that in Wales it would take longer. Based on history, based on the lack of oil field. If people in Wales seem "cowardly" it's because there are material, factual reasons for that. We need to focus our energies there.

I think the discussion about head offices, changes in the electricity and water markets, would make a small difference, but not enough to change the overall fact that we couldn't afford to service the Welsh deficit at the moment. The UK can afford to service its deficit because it has the City of London and (for now) North Sea oil. Scotland could afford to service its deficit because it would have North Sea oil. The mentality of different nations is easily explained when you look at the real hard facts.

We need to accept it's going to be a longer hard trek in Wales. So long that there's probably no room for impatience. It's literally that grim.

Plaid Cymru should focus on trying to become the government in Wales. As it is doing. Independence should remain our aim but should be expressed in gradualist terms. I say this as if it's a chosen strategy but there's no actual choice at all. It's the reality in front of us. As MH says it isn't "all or nothing". There are intermediate stages and most people understandly want to see us walk before we can run.

An "all or nothing" scenario isn't democratic because as someone says, a Tory small state anti-welfare narrative would "work" better than a social democratic one. That isn't compatible with Plaid Cymru but there could always be less moderate parties to be set up, if other people wanted to do that. I notice it never happens though.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that historically speaking, the tax takes from Wales aren't collapsing or dropping off particularly, despite our weak economy. The income tax take in particular has increased at periods. There is a possibility of spinning a positive story about Wales out of this or at least saying, we have some potential as a nation.

Welsh not British said...

Anon 11:58. The primary goal for the SNP is and has always been independence. Plaid changes it's mind so often it's hard to know where they stand from one moment to the next.

My comments of "weak" and "pathetic" are due to centuries of brainwashing. This is what happens when you allow your enemy to educate your children.

MH. You're right, Wales is desperate for a GERW. Most people have targets in their jobs and if they meet them they are rewarded if they fail they are investigated and continual failure will no doubt lead to replacement.

This is not so in Wales. Due to the Stockholm Syndrome we collectively suffer from we're drawn into a Labour vs Conservative battle at election time. We have no real media to speak of. Compare the thorough analysis of our national teams after losing a game with the complete ignorance of our political parties.

And for those above who claim water has no value, directly perhaps it's not worth much. But imagine if Wales was in a position where Welsh water wasn't cheaper in Birmingham than it is in Powys. Water is an essential ingredient for many industries, at present the theft of Welsh water essentially means that we are subsidising English businesses and consumers.

The same is true for energy and our Crown Estates that are managed by firms outside Wales.

Anonymous said...

Wales was historically conquered and incorporated- literally- into England's laws. The position we're in now basically makes sense. The argument should be about taking more and more control over our own affairs. Then independence will make more sense to people. But my feeling is we may need decades of nationalist rule before it is seen as a good idea by the public, and we might need to de-emphasise independence to get into power.

Welsh not British said...

More powers are not ours to take, they are England's to give. That is the sad reality of devolution which was summed up by Jack Straw when he said that power devolved is power retained.

It was further hammered home when the Welsh Labour MPs voted no to devolving energy and The Crown Estates. These gravy train riding traitors will gladly see us fighting each other in the gutters than do anything to upset their free ride.

Most people in Wales see Plaid as a language party. Most people also do not vote. By showing the people of Wales that we would be better off free from London rule is the only way people will be convinced to get off their backsides and vote.

Plaid have just managed to return £11m to Wrecsam that was stolen by the treasury. No doubt the people of Wrecsam will show their gratitude by voting Labour at the next election.

Newport has just seen the destruction of it's chartist mural, at the next elections they will show their gratitude by voting Labour once again. These stories will be repeated right across Wales unless there is an alternative to Labour and this sham of a union. Until Plaid make independence their number one goal the people who do vote might as well vote Labour.

MH said...

I don't find the narrative you portray very convincing, 11:58. I do think that we have had problems with self-confidence in our ability to govern ourselves, but that is changing. I don't think I'd use the words cowardly or pathetic, though, because I don't think that's the best way of encouraging change.

However I would use the term cowardly and pathetic of Plaid Cymru during that bleak period when half its leaders were afraid to say "independence" and the other half were actively fighting against it. The SNP was always much more consistent in stating that it wanted to see an independent Scotland. That is what gave the party enough credibility to get elected. Think about it. They could only prove themselves to be a competent party of "good governance" after they had been elected, but they wouldn't have got enough seats to form a government if they had been wishy-washy about what wanting independence first, foremost, and as soon as possible. Hopefully Plaid Cymru has gone some way to reasserting that we want independence, but I can't say the message from the top has been as forceful and unequivocal as it should be. This needs to change urgently before we can hope to make any political headway.

I don't think being independent several hundred years ago has got anything whatsoever to do with why Scotland is ahead of us. The only possible things that would give the Scots any head start over us would be that they retained their church, their education system, and their legal system. But we in Wales have had a disestablished church for nearly a century (and religion is nowhere near as relevant to most people now as it was before, anyway) and now have almost full control of our education system. As for law, Ireland shared exactly the same legal system as England, and so did many English-speaking countries in the British Empire ... but that didn't stand in the way of them becoming independent, therefore why should it stand in our way?

So you might call these things "real hard facts", but I'm more inclined to call them excuses.

Continued in next comment ...

MH said...

To 11:58, continued.

You didn't make it clear what the "it" was in, "We need to accept it's going to be a longer hard trek in Wales." I suspect you mean independence, because you go on to say that Plaid should focus on trying to become the government in Wales, and that independence "should be expressed in gradualist terms".

I have no time for that attitude at all. It reminds me of Peter Hain and the primary lawmaking powers referendum. He kept saying that he did want it to happen ... but only saw it happening many years in the future. I always saw it as some sort of doublespeak code meaning that he didn't want any more devolution in his lifetime, and it was just a way of saying that he didn't want it at all, even though he lacked the courage to say so.

I think we must always say that we want independence for Wales now, as soon as we can get it. Although I think that Elin Jones meant well, I thought it was really politically inept to say that she wanted independence by 2036, and was still inept when she changed it to only wanting independence if Plaid won two elections. If we are to lead public opinion, we must always present a consistent vision of wanting independence now.

When I said I was prepared to take things step by step, I meant that we should always take the most we can get whenever any additional autonomy or decision-making power is offered to Wales. But when we are in the driving seat, we set the pace ... and that must mean that we have a referendum on independence during our first term if we can get a majority for it in the Assembly.

This brings me back to the point I made before. We cannot wait until we can "afford independence", because we'll probably be waiting for ever. Being part of the UK is what is holding us back. The message must be that we want independence because taking control of our own affairs is what will make us more prosperous. Yes, we will have some tricky years to begin with, but aren't we already going through tricky years? They are going to get worse, for the cuts haven't even begun to bite yet.

MH said...

No, 12:15, I don't think even Labour could spin these figures into a positive story. But of course I think we have potential as a nation if we develop our economy in a way that suits our strengths, rather than live as part of a UK that is run to suit the strengths of London and south east England.

Plaid Cymru's job is to present a convincing picture of how much more prosperous we will be if we did things in a different way. Not to hold off on independence until we are more prosperous.


I think I agree with all your 14:52 comment, Stu. On water, I think Alwyn ap Huw hit the nail on the head when he said that if southern England was short of water, the answer was not massive engineering schemes to give them more of ours, but for them to move their water-intensive industries (brewing, soft drinks, etc) from southern England to Wales.

Mass transfers or water might be worth 6p/m3 or 0.006p a litre. Good bottled beer might be worth £6 a litre. That means it's 100,000 times more valuable as an export than water.

MH said...

To 15:32. I completely disagree that we need to de-emphasize independence to get into power. That's what Dafydd El-Cid told Alex Salmond to do after the SNP did badly in the 2003 election, details here:

Last week, the former leader of the Welsh nationalists [DET] spoke up about the SNP's failure to adjust to devolution, commenting: "There is still a role for them but not as a nationalist party."

He added that the SNP’s only chance of government was to cease to pursue "Scottish independence as if this is the real issue" and transform itself into a "party of government within the devolved set-up."

Alex just laughed at the idea, details here:

I was amused by the Scottish press who ran the piece just before our conference and they said, "Dafydd Elis-Thomas doesn't believe in independence anymore."

"Well he never believed in independence anyway."

When asked whether there was any merit in Lord Elis-Thomas's arguments, Mr Salmond said, "Most of the criticism of the SNP actually comes from those who say we have lost sight of the vision of an independent Scotland by getting involved in devolution and getting wrapped up in the day-to-day running of politics.

"We have to do both. Where I disagree with my distinguished colleague is that you have to have a successful national party. You have to have a vision of independence galvanizing support and the promise of what independence can deliver linked to a social and economic vision that you want to deliver. The job of the SNP is not to substitute the constitutional debate with the social and economic debate or vice versa but to link the two."

I don't think anyone doubts that Alex is a very much more credible and consistent politician than poor Dafydd.


As for whether the Welsh public will need a few decades to be convinced about independence, I don't know. We won't become independent until we vote for it. But those who want independence (both inside and outside Plaid Cymru) won't convince anyone about it unless we believe it ourselves ... and it seems as if there are still quite a few in senior positions in Plaid Cymru that need to be convinced.

Welsh not British said...

Most people in Wales are completely switched off and don't realise what being in this 'union' or independence could actually mean.

As an example two of the biggest reasons for people in Scotland to vote yes are to make Scotland a nuke free country and to be able to protect the people of Scotland from Labour/Tory policies that deliberately target the poor and the disabled.

I know this is off topic but I thought MH would be interested in this

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MH said...

If you want to make a comment of that nature, you need to back it up with some evidence, 10:45.

Anonymous said...

David Marquand talks about some of the similarities and differences between Wales and Scotland here- http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/09/first-brexit-then-break , it's quite interesting. He notes the historical differences discussed above but says there is a similarity with Scotland in that our political culture is different to England's political culture, and also the divergence in policies here (or indeed in England). More people in Wales will see the sense of becoming independent as they see further divergence. I want to share Marquand's view that a "Brexit" would break up the UK, but i'm unfortunately not convinced the Welsh feel strongly enough about the EU. There's alot of apathy out there.

MH said...

Thank you for that link, 14:07. It is an interesting article, and its broad thrust makes enough sense for me not to want to quibble about any of the details. I liked the graphic too.

What David Marquand said about the difference between the English attitude to losing the empire compared with that of the Welsh and Scottish was not only spot on, but echoed what Ralph Miliband said about how the English thought of the empire while they still had it and while he was still a teenager.

"The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world ... you sometimes want them almost to lose [the war] to show them how things are. They have the greatest contempt for the Continent ... To lose their empire would be the worst possible humiliation."

It was so typical of the Daily Mail's Englishness to interpret what he said of the English as hatred of Britain ... and so typical of every political party and the mainstream-media to not notice it.


I wouldn't worry about how Wales will vote in an EU referendum. I'd agree that there is a lot of apathy about it now, but minds will be concentrated if and when it takes place. I think people will largely vote on party lines in the referendum, not so much out of any sense of loyalty, but because they will trust the opinion of the politicians they already trust enough to vote for at other times.

Plaid supporters will vote to stay in. So will LibDem supporters (if there are enough in Wales to matter). Labour (and certainly Labour in Wales) will be in favour of remaining in the EU, so their supporters are likely to go along with that ... and there simply aren't enough Tories and UKIPers in Wales to sway the balance. This makes me confident that Wales will vote to stay in the EU, even though opinion in Wales might be fairly evenly split now.

The bigger question is how people will vote in England. Yes, I'd be inclined to agree that if only England voted to leave the EU, it would lead to the break-up of the UK. However it would not be "the reason" for the break-up, because I believe it is inevitable that Wales and Scotland will become independent anyway. For me, it is only a question of which straw finally breaks the camel's back.

I think that England will realize that remaining in the EU is in its best interests. There's some truth in the idea that being outside the EU will mean an even greater over-reliance on financial services, and to London becoming some sort of city-state with a large commuter belt that includes the whole of south east England. So the question is whether the rest of England will want that to happen, or whether they will vote to stay in the EU as the only way of stopping it. I think that the midlands and north of England will vote to stay in the EU, and that these votes will outweigh the votes of the south east.

Staying in the EU might be a blow to those who hope that a Brexit will provide the circumstances that lead to independence for Wales. But the fact that the rest of England will have asserted itself to stop the ever-greater dominance of London and its reliance on financial services will be something that strengthens England's sense of political identity; and it is this growing sense that we are all better able to govern ourselves as independent nations that will ultimately lead to the break-up of the UK.

Anonymous said...

Having been deleted once by MH let me try again...

A myth has taken root amongst a section of nationalists that the SNP has always been pro-independence. Welsh not British puts it like this:
"The primary goal for the SNP is and has always been independence."
Often this belief serves to underpin a worldview that suggests that Plaid are somehow inferior that their Scottish equivalent because they've been unable to embrace independence with such alacrity and conviction. If only Plaid was more like the SNP in terms of its constitutional policy, Plaid would be performing more like the SNP at the polls...

Trouble is - at least as far as the SNP is concerned - this just isn't true. Or at best it's a massive oversimplification. Witness the fact the 'i' word was only officially embraced by the SNP as the term to describe it's constitutional aspiration for Scotland in 2004. Which is, of course, just around the same time as Plaid started using it...

Can I suggest people read James Mitchell's various writings on the SNP? Or does that get me deleted as well?!

MH said...

It's better than the earlier version, 21:13. At least we now know where your idea comes from.

But it doesn't mean that it's right. Here is one example of an SNP election leaflet from the late 60s. It says someting that could be repeated word-for-word today:

"But by voting for the London-controlled Tory-Labour parties you give up before you start. In an independent Scotland your vote will be effective – left or right."

I don't know about the very early history of the SNP, but this shows that independence has been something they have wanted for more than 40 years. And their position was unequivocally pro-independence in the 70s with the It's Scotland's Oil campaign.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, MH, but it's not an 'idea' that I've just come up with! It's actually a basic fact about the SNP's constitutional policy!

You are right, of course, that the SNP used the term 'independence' in their campaigns long before they adopted it formally (their formal position was in favour of 'self-government - which sounds awfully familiar to Welsh ears!) I would add that they never quite had the Plaid levels of hang up about the 'i' word - or, relatedly, 'sovereignty'. But still, my point stands: there's a tendency among nationalists to oversimplify things. I have a Plaid poster at home from the early 90s which demands 'independence in Europe', while the 'i' word has not always been a straightforward one for the SNP...

MH said...

Your "point" seems to be changing all the time, Anon.

You are free to disagree with the idea that the ambiguity, prevarication and at times open opposition to independence for Wales from Plaid Cymru's past leaders has contributed to its lack of electoral success. You are also free to disagree with the idea that one reason for the SNP's electoral success has been because of its consistency about independence for Scotland.

But it is ridiculous to try and justify your disagreement by claiming that independence was only embraced by the SNP in 2004 ... and even more ridiculous to portray it as a "basic fact".

Neilyn said...

If it's a Yes vote in Scotland next year, in what ways will that change people's perceptions of Wales' situation? Putting aside the surface politics/economics...

Will our neighbour not seem a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more 'dominant'?

If Montenegro felt uneasy about continued Union with Serbia in 2006 (circa 11x the population), what about us? (circa 17x smaller population than our neighbour).

If we sometimes/often feel misunderstood, disregarded or denigrated now, how will things fare for us if Scotland departs? The political Union twixt the 2 Kingdoms will be over, and the Kingdom of England will doubtless re-emerge (and quite proudly, loudly, and unabashed I imagine, regardless of the political class' preferences). Judging by the results of the 2011 Census on National Identity, the English have already made the 'switch'...

So much is felt, so much is perception.

Anonymous said...

Interesting point by Neilyn. Especially if England goes through an identity crisis as a result of the UK state losing Scotland.

Nationalists in Wales will feel stronger, especially as Scotland would be perceived here to be making a relative success of independence (they'll almost certainly have a left-of-centre government and good oil prices for a while).

What is less predictable is how the Labour establishment here will react. Or whether there will be several different reactions from different parts of the Labour party.

What I think (without being an expert) would happen is some kind of "devo-max" consensus from the unions, Labour, Plaid and Lib Dems, but still with some kind of block grant. The unions in particular will see this as a form of protection from Westminster. It could be quite interesting.

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