What next for YesCymru

This has been written in the aftermath of the resignation of the remaining members of the YesCymru central committee. I’m addressing only one aspect here, which is what I believe YesCymru should be. YesCymru has sent an email to members detailing how they can contribute to the working party or “gweithgor” on its constitution. It’s vital that we contribute either as individuals if we have relevant experience to bring to bear or via our groups if we wish to contribute our opinion to the collective voice of the membership. Please check your inboxes.

Those of us following recent events will no doubt be disappointed at the implosion of the YesCymru central committee under claim and counter claim. To my mind there appear to be two clear aspects in this very public argument. The first is how people treat one another. This is where due process counts … getting the processes right is vital. The second was really a battle for what YesCymru is.

A great deal of energy has been spent arguing about independence first or on selling a vision of an independent Wales. I am of the opinion that this need not and has never needed to be a binary choice. What I’ve always believed is that YesCymru should be non-partisan. Now I’ve been guilty of tired late night tweets in which I’ve not been entirely clear in my meaning, but I’ve seen folk jumping on and engaging in discourse in a disrespectful manner. That has been characteristic of the recent infighting and without recourse to any functional mechanisms of resolution, has seen people (including myself) falling out publicly.

So first what is meant by non-partisan? Well, it does not mean that YesCymru “does not do” party politics. In fact what YesCymru really ought to be doing is pushing Wales’ political parties to talk about what would be needed in an independent Wales. The movement needs to be a facilitator and a platform. It is well placed to platform progressive, conservative, liberal and other ideas for building an independent and democratic Welsh State. In being non-partisan we should expect that YesCymru does not favour one above the other.

Secondly, there should be no need for members and supporters to fall out publicly over this status. We should be able to resolve our differences via internal discourse and/or resolution mechanisms. We all have a partisan take on our politics. There are movements and parties that cater for this. I am a Plaid Cymru member because the party has long advocated Welsh political self-determination and stands on a progressive and green manifesto. Others have an affinity for the historical stance of the Labour party wrt trade unions and as a movement of the working class but have been drawn towards Labour for indy Wales as a means of supporting independence within their party. Some conservatively minded Welsh people who reject the unionism of the Tories have formed Gwlad as a vehicle for conservative Welsh nationalism. Undod supports Welsh independence on the basis of socialism. Members that wish to make the case for given aspects of a Welsh constitution or the economy through their own political lens can do so via those movements. YesCymru can be the shop front window so to speak that presents the diversity of visons to the Welsh electorate.

So when I say YesCymru should be non-partisan, it is not to present a void to the Welsh electorate as some have recently accused. It is to allow all moderate political voices to be heard. In my opinion this would be a great strength. We will engage far more of the Welsh public in a civic conversation about the future of our country if all feel that they have a voice and a stake regardless of their political leanings.

When I say “independence first” it is this non-partisanship that I have in mind. This calls for members of all parties and none to be able to stand together and say “We want a democratic Welsh Nation State.” Because that is the one thing we have in common. We have to respect each other’s right to express our vision of that state and at the same time take up the political fight for it. But we must remember what the vehicle for that fight is. Furthermore we should be mindful of the need to disagree without villifying those with whom we disagree simply because we do not share the same politics (of course we call out wrongdoing where we see it – I do not mean that we ignore that). Unless we are successful in acheiving a Welsh State there is only a battle of theoreticals to be held and frankly that sounds like an almighty waste of time to me.

So let YesCymru be the campaign for a democratic Welsh State. Let it be the shop front window, our means of civic engagement with the Welsh electorate on the matter of independence. Let us build our visions of that prospective state via the parties and movements that best fit our politics. Keep YesCymru’s remit simple and positive. Then the time will come when it can act as the official Yes for Welsh independence referendum campaign and we will have built our modes of cooperation and we will be an effective electoral force in that existential political fight of our lives.

Can Wales afford independence?

I posted this Twitter thread on July 10th, 2021. I’ve tweaked it a little bit here. We often hear the argument that Wales is “too small” or “too poor” to be independent. Isn’t it strange how there are dozens of countries smaller than Wales? Isn’t it curious that Wales’ economy on a per person basis is bigger than that of Spain? Yet nobody questions Spain’s capacity to exist as a Nation State. But “The Deficit!” You know, the one the UK Government creates on our behalf … *whispers* but don’t mention that they run their own deficit (just like most other states).

I’ve been doing some thinking about this economic case for #indyWales Here’s some data … (Taken from https://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/countries-by-gdp)

Too small, too poor.

“Wales is too small.”

Smaller countries tend to be more affluent.

“We’d have to stand on our own two feet.”

There are 88 countries on the above list with a population smaller than 5 million. Just like Wales.

“We can’t afford it.”

Out of the near 200 countries listed Wales would rank about 35th for GDP per Capita. Out of the 88 smaller countries, Wales would be 16th. That’s top quartile in both lists. Here’s the rank order of small European countries if Wales was included:

It’s very clear from the data that the “too small, too poor” claim is nothing more than a badly founded lie.

One thing I should mention in this thread is currency. There are probably three serious contenders.

  1. Use the £/sterlingisation
  2. Use the Euro
  3. Use our own currency

I personally favour using our own. It would allow us far more in terms of fiscal policy.

“A Welsh currency would be worthless. Your credit rating would be junk.”

Iceland went down this same road just over a century ago.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Iceland#Home_rule_and_sovereignty

See this for info on the Icelandic economy and Moody’s rating.

https://thebanks.eu/countries/Iceland/economy

Then remember we have ten times the population.

The Deficit

At this point I’m going to revisit a bit of an old thread because I know the next question is “What about the deficit?”

https://blogarwyn.wales/2021/08/08/the-deficit/

Wales has no deficit. The Welsh Government is permitted only a very small amount of borrowing and otherwise spends within its’ budget which is set via the Barnett formula according to spending decisions for England. For example, if England’s NHS funding is reduced, ours will be cut by the same percentage. The UK Govt accounts for 45% of the spending in and on behalf of Wales & it is responsible for the deficit it incurs in doing so. The https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/wales-governance-centre publishes the GERW report with detailed estimates on government spending and revenue with respect to Wales. Since the Welsh Government has extremely limited control over public spending and revenues in and on behalf of Wales it is clear that Wales does not run a deficit … A deficit is run in our name.

For example Wales is contributing an estimated £3-5Bn to HS2. @swalesmetroprof has written here: https://swalesmetroprof.blog/2020/01/07/wales-and-hs2/ about the net £150 Million annual cost to the Welsh economy. He also estimates that underfunding on rail will have cost Wales £3Bn between 2001 and 2029.

For example, spending on defence attributed to Wales comes to 2.6% of GDP. That’s higher than the NATO target of 2%, higher than the UK as a whole at 2.2% and higher than Ireland at approximately 0.5 – 0.6% of GDP. If an independent Wales spent the same percentage as Ireland we’d save a billion pounds every year.

So you see, the power to decide where our taxes go is beyond the Welsh Government and they are often spent in a manner that damages our economy.

This brings me to productivity … also known as GVA.

GVA

I think this infographic speaks volumes. It demonstrates what lies behind the 30% and rising of Welsh children who are growing up in poverty. Moreover, the low average wages & in work poverty of workers, all of which leads to poorer health outcomes & life chances.

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3/

The GERW report (p.20) states that if Welsh GVA per Capita matched roUK then annual revenues would be £5.3Bn higher.

https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/1542474/full_gerw_print.pdf

The same GERW report also points out that Wales’ ageing demographics (we also lose young people in search of work) costs Wales £1.5Bn every year (p.75).

https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/1542474/full_gerw_print.pdf

Uneven Economic Development

So it should be obvious by now that the key factor in our current economic underperformance is low GVA – but the big question is “Why?” One word. Investment. Or to be precise, the lack thereof. The story of Wales in the 20thC was one of industrial disinvestment. I always remember something my Dad told me back in the ’80’s. “The mines would have had to go in the end either way. It’s just that they never put anything back.” How much Welsh manufacturing has been lost? How many processing plants? But it’s not just that.

Coming back to GERW again, capital expenditure in key areas such as Education, Science & Transport is circa 70% of the UK average per person in Wales. Compared to London, it’s even less. Those who say Wales is a net beneficiary of the UK are being disingeuous. There is an economic theory which describes the relationship between core countries and peripheral and semi-peripheral countries. I’d argue that Wales is semi-peripheral to the London core. https://web.mit.edu/esd.83/www/notebook/WorldSystem.pdf. Ultimately the fiscal and macro-economic policies which govern these outcomes are the responsibility of the UK government. And it has been a succession of poor governments with respect to Wales’ economy. UK governments have allowed the Welsh economy to fall further and further behind.

So we have the diagnosis. What is the solution? It is to equip our nation with statehood as a starting point, the means with which to rebuild our economy. We must work hard and learn to build our country and set our comunities on sustainable footings that will last generations.

#indyWales is the means by which we set the agenda and build our own future. If we don’t someone else will do it for us – and that “someone” more often than not, is the Tory Party no matter how many times Wales votes Labour. That’s the UK. We can do better than that. #indyWales is both economically viable and politically feasible.

In the end, the question is really “Who should govern Wales?”

The Deficit

I wrote this Twitter thread on October 22nd 2020. I often get weary of having “The Deficit” thrown at me as if it were some killer, debate ending proof of Wales’ unfitness for Statehood. What the so-called deficit represents is the difference in the estimated UK State receipts attributed to Wales and the estimated spending by the UK State in and on behalf of Wales (a very professional exercise by the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University – clear data is difficult to come by as a great deal is rarely disaggregated). The GERW report from which the deficit figure is taken itself actually states: “The estimates presented in this report reflect Wales’ fiscal position under current constitutional arrangements, and as such, are not a reflection of the finances of an independent Wales.” For more thoughts on the future for Wales’ economy, this later Wales Governance Centre publication is worth reading: https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/1767424/Wales_Fiscal_Future_FINAL.pdf. The Welsh Government is one executive arm of the UK State so its spending is part of the UK balance sheet. Moreover it has only a very limited scope to increase (or even decrease) its own budget. How can there possibly be a “Welsh deficit” under the circumstances? Ultimately, Welsh spending and receipts are governed by fiscal and economic policy and treasury settlements decided upon at Westminster. This is a UK Government deficit. Under this patrician constitutional model, Wales is being attributed with an internal shortfall that if anything is indicative of the UK Government own dire shortcomings with respect to UK State responsibilities for the economic development of our nation.

For those wondering about this whole “England subsidises Wales” rubbish doing the rounds recently … a thread 👇

There is a deficit attributed between government spending and revenues in Wales.

It’s not Wales’ deficit. It’s an estimate for the internal accounting of the UK state. It’s the deficit of UK state spending and revenue attributed to Wales.

cardiff.ac.uk/__data/assets/…

I repeat, it is not our deficit. How can it be? We don’t have significant borrowing powers. We don’t have significant powers over taxation. The Welsh Government budget is decided via the Barnett formula according to England’s spending plans.

We don’t have a significant say in macroeconomic policy at a state level. We don’t decide on large scale capital expenditure outlay (which is substantially lower in Wales than the UK average).

We aren’t allowed to issue bonds, do quantitative easing or exercise any of the normal fiscal/economic powers of state. And yet we’re told that WE run a deficit. No WE do not. A deficit is run IN OUR NAME.

And if the UK runs a deficit on our behalf, if it leaves us with productivity at 70% of the UK average & the attendant low average wages through a lack of capital expenditure, if it puts in-work families in poverty and a growing 30%+ of children with them, it has failed Wales.

And this must be seen as a failure of government and of policy. Despite this handicap Wales has a GDP/head grater than that of Spain and a tax take per person greater than that of New Zealand. Our wealth per person is close to the UK average.

No, it is not Wales that runs any deficit as the nascent Nation State of Cymru/Wales is yet to be birthed by this moribund United Kingdom. The UK is so badly misgoverned by it’s upper classes that it runs a deficit here and in its own right. It does so by it’s own choice.

Wales’ influence over the UK economy is miniscule, our MP’s a mere 6% of the total at Westminster. It is largely England’s elitist public school cabal that runs the UK govt. It has made a dreadful mess in hot pursuit of its own self interest & awful anglo-British ideologies.

The Tories long ago built a centralised political/economic power structure which they and those whom they represent milk for their own enrichment. This they believe to be their own entitlement, their natural position in society.

But rather than dismantle this central power structure that put Wales at its periphery, Labour have sought to perpetuate this status quo whilst merely attempting to redistribute a greater share of the proceeds and astonishingly call this solidarity.

It isn’t money that Wales needs to take off Westminster. It isn’t even wealth. It’s the power to make wealth and monetise it ourselves. It’s the means to organise our society according to our values and the democratic mandate we afford a govenment of OUR choosing.

Only statehood sets Wales free. We have the people, we simply need the means. It’s time for us to plan how we will govern ourselves, organise our resources and society for our benefit and how we will run our economy for the sake of our people and communities.

#indyWales #Annibyniaeth is the first step on that path. We are not dependent. We are misgoverned. Break the cycle. Rebuild our Country. Make it better. It’s up to us.

If you feel that you wish to contribute to our future as a fully fledged and empowered Nation State, you could support @YesCymru.

If you want to make a difference at the ballot box, please consider voting for @Plaid_Cymru. Only when we have a Welsh Government with a democratic mandate for independence will we be able to begin the process of #DissolveTheUnion. Let’s begin that noble task in 2021.

End.

Why framing the union as a progressive force is pure dogma

This article was published in http://www.Nation.Cymru on 17 Jan 2021. At the time I wanted to counter the mythologising by the Left of the United Kingdom as a progressive force. By simply calling a political arrangement a “Union” does not make it in practice a vehicle for “solidarity” or “internationalism” as is so often claimed. In my opinion Labour are more concerned with occupying the positions of power in the State rather than addressing it’s structural failings and bringing about reform. Here I set out a case for breaking up the UK as a means of beginning the process of unravelling Tory hegemony in Britain and setting on a new, more progressive path as European Nations.

It is a great ill that befalls the Left when it frames the UK as some progressive institution; this is pure dogma.

Much of the British Left is content to occupy structures of power rather than dismantle the causes of inequality. My thinking on this has been formed in the face of unstinting loyalty to the UK by Labour members and their supporters.

The Tories represent two clear strands: Capital and Social Conservativism. Moreover, they represent a political tradition that stretches back through the centuries when the UK was forged based on class hegemony of capital and imperial expansion.

While the empire may be gone, and we are no colony, there exists a structure which has clear parallels. World Systems theory describes a core-periphery economic model that can be scaled to the centralised British State.

We need only compare the capital expenditure per head in various parts of the UK and observe the correlation with GVA and wages to recognise the economic impact. We note the Tories as champions of the UK as a single contiguous Nation-State. They instinctively reject devolution as they actively impose control from the centre. The UK is truly their baby, and they benefit significantly from its design.

‘Blind spot’ 

It is a genuine iniquity that the British Progressive Left possesses such a deliberate blind spot. Time and again, these structures’ occupation has led to topological changes that are easily reversed by the Tories.

We are yet to witness a genuine reform of the UK state. Home rule and reform of the Lords remain as unlikely as ever, whilst leading figures on the Left avail elitist private education.

The Blair Government shifted the Lords towards a model of political patronage. The Tories openly milk the golden cow it has created for themselves. British Progressives apply the fig leaf of their proclaimed values on an ostensibly conservative and unequal class derived UK; this is unicorn politics.

One such diffuse and woolly argument goes; “I have more in common with the working people of (insert urban English city/region name here) than I do the landowners of Wales.” How does this relate to the rights of Wales to a nation state?

It is an absurd argument which can be extended to any other country or region of the World. By way of comparison with an independent Wales, how does our inclusion in the UK help Newcastle people to a greater extent? Do our votes make the difference at Westminster, mainly as we are about to lose 20 per cent of our MP’s?

‘Solidarity’

I am a great advocate of solidarity. I just fail to see how supporting a right-wing, unfettered capitalist venture such as the UK equates to solidarity. I observe other nation states acting in solidarity with one another.

I expect to hear the Barnett formula and “the deficit” used as evidence of solidarity. But it is not our deficit. How can it be? We do not have significant borrowing powers. We do not have significant powers over taxation, and we do not set our budget.

It is the Barnett formula which decides according to England’s spending plans. We do not have a significant say in macroeconomic policy at a state level. We do not decide on large scale capital expenditure outlay (which is substantially lower in Wales than the UK average).

We have no sovereign currency. We are not allowed to issue bonds, do quantitative easing, or exercise any of the State’s normal fiscal/economic powers. And yet we are told that we run a deficit. No, we do not, a deficit is run in our name. This is not solidarity. This is control.

The UK runs a deficit on our behalf, and through a lack of capital expenditure leaves us with productivity at 70 per cent of the UK average. The attendant low average wages puts in-work families in poverty and a growing 30 per cent of children with them. If the UK has done these things, then it has failed Wales.

‘Alarm’ 

That the Tories are the UK’s greatest cheerleaders and wrap it up in an affected patriotism should sound an alarm for British progressives. But instead, they are tone-deaf to it. This is an obtuse position which has cost the Labour party dearly in Scotland. Albeit a few established figures elsewhere, such as Clive Lewis, Ben Bradshaw, Mick Antoniw appear to be waking up to the reality.

The dissolution of the UK should be seized upon as an opportunity for progressives in all the British Nations to fundamentally reform the distribution of power and end the existing structural inequalities.

If the political and economic basis for the UK is a hegemonic class power structure, its dissolution is the first step in Britain’s meaningful progressive reform.

Thus far, every proposal for federalism, including Mr Antoniw’s, has been predicated upon that prime Tory tenet – the Sovereignty of Westminster. Although bringing greater powers to Wales is welcome, it remains an easily reversible topological change.

Nothing will have been done to fundamentally change the balance of power or the economic model upon which the UK is based. The establishment of three new Nation States and a British Council, à la Benelux, rooted in the principles of democracy is our path towards social justice.

It will only be the beginning of the journey. But principles are not sufficient alone. Social justice is not possible in a Tory rigged UK no matter who occupies government positions. They merely preside over the continuation of the problem.

‘The Right’

I say that progressives must abandon the ad hominem “separatist”. It echoes the language of the Right. We Statists are the reformers, and we seek the political agency to affect social progress in our nations.

We do not seek independence based on exceptionalism but democracy and self-determination. The UK, from a progressive perspective, is not fit for purpose nor reformable. It must be dismantled, and a new relationship established between our nations founded on respect and equality which will also be to England’s advantage.

An English State loosed from the last vestiges of empire will, by necessity, reconsider its position in the World. It will also need cooperation with Europe to thrive. This will be a reckoning, and it will require cultural and societal change. An English state is the opportunity progressives must take to reform their country and rebuild it as a modern European nation. As a person of part English descent, I long to see such an outcome.

It is high time to put the dogma of the past behind us and allow the UK ‘one last hurrah’ in peacefully bequeathing to us three new nation states and a fourth reunited as it passes into history.

We will have solidarity if we build anew, together as free nations. Internationalism can be our purpose as we dismantle the Tory hegemony and rebuild our relationships with our neighbours in Europe and beyond.

It is time to dissolve the union and embrace Welsh national statehood.

I invite the Welsh left to love the nation – Wales

This article was published in http://www.Nation.Cymru on 13 Aug 2020. At the time Welsh Labour figures were beginning to address the groundswell of support for #indyWales but were trying to divert attention towards ideas such as “subsidiarity” without really addressing how poltical agency should be applied via democratic self-determination. The gap between the two was a source of frustration for me. Labour’s reluctance to take on the reality of the Welsh Nation has always been problematic to me. I had also been reading of the influence that the 1983 general election had on the Left in Britain and how the successes of Thatcherism and Neo Liberalism had altered the discourse on the economy with the Left ceding ground and taking the Right on in other political arenas. In the context of Wales I felt that uneven economic development was a crucial feature and one that needed to be addressed urgently.

I am a Welsh Statist. Of course, there’s far more to my political thinking besides. But in the current political climate, that is probably the most important aspect for me right now. I believe that self-determination in the form of Democratic Statehood affords Wales the best opportunity for political, economic and social progress.

It is time for the left in Wales to articulate a new vision for the Social Contract between the Citizen and State.

We’re by now quite familiar with the negative consequences of economic globalisation and it’s well documented what this has meant for manufacturing jobs. In Wales this has exacerbated the inequality that lies in our peripheral relationship to the south east England/London core.

Whilst the core has transitioned to new phases of economy aided by much higher rates of capital expenditure, Wales has not been able to follow. Instead, Wales’ economy has increasingly become about the supply of low value added, unfinished produce to other economies.

Where there has been the political will to advance the Welsh economy there has been a lack of political agency and sadly a failure to acknowledge the political-economic model as dysfunctional.

Save for the more traditionally left manifesto of the Corbyn led Labour Party, mainstream left economic thinking has converged with the economic arguments of the Right in a landscape dominated by Thatcherite policy. Of course, we had the New Labour Government which had some remarkable successes. But in following the fundamental economics of the right, albeit with the addition of redistributionism, it intensified the core-periphery relationship that has entrapped the Welsh economy in its current enfeebled state.

For much of the past forty years, the focus of progressive politics has moved elsewhere. For example, it has given us the campaigns for gay marriage rights and so on.

But there is a tension that came into focus in the UK during the 2016 referendum and 2019 general election. That tension lies with the notion of the “social contract” that is said to exist between citizen and state.

I believe that large numbers of working people feel that the social contract between them and the state has been broken, first by the diminished employment prospects that economic globalism has brought them but also by the perceived unfairness of a political globalism that has conferred rights that are felt to have taken precedence over and above what are understood as the civic rights of the historic citizenry.

Furthermore, too many on the left have ignored or dismissed cultural attachments that people have to the Nation. That abandonment has been manna to the Right which has long incorporated the nation and the state into its political thinking.

In my opinion the Welsh left needs to embrace the Nation and incorporate it within its political philosophy. It needs to explore the interplay between the rights of the Nation, the rights of the Community, the rights of the Citizen and Human rights. It needs to incorporate these coherently in a credible framework in which the state acts as guardian of these rights and a guarantor of the balance between them.

So, what of Wales then? Recently, supporters of the abolition of our Senedd argued that [devolution]

“is incompatible with the unitary nature of the UK. It is our opinion that the UK as a nation state is the political reality and that the parliament in Westminster should be fully sovereign.”

This is hopelessly wrong as an analysis given that the UK is widely acknowledged as a union of Nations. But in the absence of a positive analysis of the Nation and its role in the lives of its citizens from large parts of the Welsh left it has the potential to gain traction.

It’s time for Wales’ left to face up to this challenge with regards to our construct of Nationhood. If we don’t, British exceptionalism will occupy that space. I invite the Welsh left to love the Nation Wales. Because then we can articulate a prospective contract between the citizens of Wales and their government.

When leading figures on the Welsh left talk to me of the virtues of subsidiarity as a solution to many of the political problems we face, that is precisely what they will be able to freely enact when in government in a Welsh State.

Our new contract will be with our elected government which will apply the agency of Welsh Statehood to advance our economic, political and cultural development as is our right to self-determination as a Nation according to the United Nations Charter.

Such a government would be best placed to balance the rights of the Nation Wales, its communities, its citizens and the universal human rights of all who find themselves in our corner of the Earth.

Statehood will furnish us with the agency to address Wales’ constitution, embedding the principles of democracy, transparency, fairness and yes, subsidiarity in all aspects of government in our society. This is where we can engage the disaffected voter.

There is much to explore here. In exploring the constitutional detail of a Social Contract for Wales, I anticipate that we can prepare the political ground to bring forth the progress and shared prosperity our communities desperately need.

When Wales’ left are united on the matter of Wales as a Nation, have a vision of its place as an equal amongst the Nations of the World and a credible plan to rebuild the country equitably for the sake of all its citizens, we’ll have more than “a very good morning in Wales” … We’ll have a great future.

Only an argument for better governance can unite Wales behind independence

This article was published in http://www.Nation.Cymru on 20 Jan 2020. At the time I felt frustrated by the mis-characterisation of independence supporters as “narrow nationalists” but also of the propensity of the #indyWales movement to lose focus on what really matters to the electorate when it comes to politics.

Having grown up in the 80’s and 90’s with family in the Rhondda, it was very apparent how post-industrial decline affected the communities of the Valleys. So watching the then Welsh Secretary John Redwood in 1995, announce proudly how he had returned a part of the Welsh Office block grant back to the UK Treasury in the name of thrift and good governance marked a low point in what was a particularly dismal period in office.

This was a truly formative experience for many who became politically conscious during this time. It demonstrated so clearly the need for Welsh political agency and accountability over the matters that affected Wales. We must surely be grateful for John Redwood’s disastrous tenure in Wales, if only for the motivation it provided just a few years later when the referendum to establish the Welsh Assembly was won by the Yes vote.

Ultimately, an appeal to national identity alone would not have won that referendum. What won it was a feeling that the UK Government was doing a bad job of governing Wales.

Recently, leading figures in Britain’s established political parties have decried the “narrow nationalism” of those in the independence movements in Wales and Scotland. It appears a rather childish analysis, a binary moral portrayal whereby support for the UK State is at once patriotic and progressive and support for Welsh and Scottish States is “narrow”.

It is a particularly unfair allegation in the midst of the perpetual drumbeat of news and comment promoting a British identity in the Brexit-supporting media. Perhaps the perceived need to appeal to people’s British identity explains why they see Welsh and other identities as so much of a threat.

But we should be careful that we do not make it easier for them to create the conception that support for Welsh independence is a matter of identity alone. Identity is not enough to ensure that people support independence. The majority in Wales are already content to record their nationality as Welsh but that does not translate into majority support for independence.

But many are comfortable describing themselves as British also, and they need to be won over if the campaign is to be a success. It is a fairly prosaic matter to be Welsh, British and European all at once. Indeed, not everyone would necessarily hold to a national identity and other causes and movements may be more important to some.

Brexit shows us that to make identity the battleground would be a profound mistake. This can only lead to the othering of those who do not feel they can subscribe to that identity, when the independence movement should ultimately aim to include everyone.

Plague

Therefore, those of us who are in favour of establishing a Welsh state must be brave enough to decouple identity from the debate. People with all kinds of identities should be able to align with the case for Welsh political agency to be exercised in a Sovereign Welsh Parliament/Senedd and build an electoral coalition in its favour.

When the independence movement makes its focus, the better governance of Wales, the superficiality of the “narrow nationalism” jibe will be revealed and the conservative arguments in favour of the current constitution will crumble.

Because it is the argument for better governance that will unite what is a politically divided nation. It does not discriminate on the basis of identity. It would not be a project owned by exclusively by the left or the right. Its purpose would be to strengthen the economic fabric of Wales as a starting point for improving our prospects, our standards of living and the resilience of our communities.

And let’s be honest. We desperately need that. The GERW report reveals the extent of the misgovernance of Wales. The UK Government (and as currently constituted, the Welsh Government is an executive arm) has and continues to enact policies that have led to the difficult economic outcomes that plague our small country in myriad ways.

The case needs to be made that the impulse for Welsh self-governance is one of democracy and self-improvement, not ‘narrow nationalism’. The political philosophy which underpins this movement must be publicly debated, developed and clarified. It must be one that welcomes a plurality of identities. It must be one that foregoes frustration and brushes off slights (real or perceived).

It must pursue a progressive agenda of democratic constitutional reform with an unwavering focus on its purpose – to secure the best possible Government for Wales for the economic, social and cultural benefit of its citizens. Otherwise, it will fail.

Why it’s young people moving out, not retirees moving in, that’s a burden on Wales

This is an article I wrote that was published by http://www.Nation.Cymru on 04 Aug 2019. At the time I was less aware of the issues of homes being bought to be used as holiday cottages and B&B’s and it was very much before the “Hawl i fyw adra” campaign. The discourse at the time surrounded an urban myth that English retirees were placing a financial burden on the Welsh public purse. The point of the article was to address the facts and point out that there were other economic factors of far greater significance that the #indyWales movement should address.

There’s no avoiding it. An ageing population is costly. Countries such as Japan have struggled with rising government spending because of its changing demographics.

Other countries have sought to plug the gap with in-migration of younger working-age people. So when people in Wales say the net inward migration of pensioners from elsewhere in the UK is a burden on the Welsh budget, they’re probably right, yes?

Well, this is an issue I’ve been grappling with for a while. I’m aware that there is a risk here of those who have concerns on this issue being portrayed as anti-English. So, I really felt the need to get under the skin of this claim and look at what the data told us.

To begin with, let’s look at the claim that there are now more English-born over 65’s in Wales than Welsh-born. It was Martin Johnes the historian who was able to point me in the direction of reliable data via nomisweb.co.uk.

Here are the population figures according to the 2011 Census:

From 2011 UK Census.

This table shows the population in Wales of those born in England and Wales. From the figures above there were 149,133 English-born over 65’s and 386,816 Welsh-born over 65’s living in Wales.

So, it is clear that the claim that there are more English pensioners than Welsh living in Wales is wrong.

Budget

What it does show, however, is that there is a skew in the demographics. Welsh-born over 65’s account for 17.4% of the Welsh-born total. English-born over 65’s account for 23.4% of the English-born total. That’s a difference of 6%.

This confirms the suggestion that many English folk are choosing to retire to Wales.

So my next question was “what cost does this occur on the Welsh budget?”

At this point it’s worth noting that the data doesn’t differentiate between English folk born in England or Welsh folk born in England so I have to be careful to point out that what follows is an estimate, taking the population figures at face value.

We should also take into account that Welsh folk also move in the opposite direction.

According to the 2011 Census data, there are 506,619 Welsh-born people living in England. This gives a net movement of people from England to Wales of 129,647.

Next, I looked at the numbers of Welsh-born over 65’s living in England which comes to 142,609.

So there is a difference of only 6,524 in the number of English-born over 65s living in Wales and Welsh-born over 65s living in England.

We can estimate the cost of this to the Welsh budget. According to fullfact.org the average person costs the NHS roughly £2,200 a year. The Nuffield trust gives a median cost for the over 65 of circa £6,000 per year. The maximum state pension is £8,767 a year. The winter fuel allowance is from £100 to £300 per year.

There are other services provided such as prescriptions and bus passes but going on the figures above we can estimate a cost per person of approximately £13,000 per year.

Multiplying this with the net increase in over 65’s gives a total estimated additional cost on the Welsh budget of £84,812,000.

So, a relatively small additional cost. On first sight it is clearly not a major percentage of the Welsh Government budget.

Welcoming

So what is really driving this line of argument that inflow of English over 65’s is incurring a significant cost on the Welsh Government budget? I’d argue that it is really about frustration at young folk being priced out of certain areas and fear of losing the Welsh language.

There are better ways of addressing the language issue. That’s a matter of doing more to help people integrate into their new communities, rather than stopping them coming in the first place.

I note that the recent news report on the Syrian refugee Mohamad Karkoubi achieving a Welsh learner award was much lauded in Welsh Twitter spheres. In my humble opinion, it is no different for any person choosing to live in Wales.

People wanting to retire to Wales can’t be blamed. Who can blame people for wishing to take advantage of lower living costs and a beautiful location in their retirement?

Rather than fretting it would be better if we welcomed our new neighbours and introduced them to our culture and language socially.

I came to the conclusion that the argument that English people retiring to Wales creates a financial burden on the Welsh Government budget to be a fruitless one. Not only is there the danger of prejudice inherent in pursuing that course, it entirely misses what is the greatest factor in Wales’ revenues and spending.

That is that our economy has structural weaknesses that motivate young Welsh people of working age to move elsewhere to pursue more rewarding careers. Altogether this has left a gap in tax revenues and workers in the 30-50 bracket that is costing Wales £billions.

For added context let’s consider the 2019 GERW report, which in chapter 2.1 p.20 states:

“Wales considerably lags behind the UK average in revenue per person from the major direct taxes including Income Tax, National Insurance contributions and Corporation Tax. Revenue raised per person through Income tax and National Insurance contributions was £1,690 lower in Wales in 2017-18. If revenue per person from these taxes in Wales matched the UK average, it would yield £5.3 billion in additional revenue.”

2019 GERW Report, Wales Governance Centre.

This is clearly a very significant figure in the context of the Welsh Government budget. £84 million is very small by comparison.

Later in chapter 5.4.1 p.75 of the 2019 GERW report, the subject of Wales’ demographics is addressed. The graph shows a lower percentage of Wales’ population being of working age particularly in the critical 30-50 age bracket. The report states that:

“If Wales’ population were to be distributed across individual age groups in the same way as the UK average, total expenditure would be over £1 billion lower and tax revenues would be nearly £500million higher.”

2019 GERW Report, Wales Governance Centre.

The total expenditure looks a great deal higher than £84 million. Even if we very crudely apply a multiplier for the proportion of English over 65’s we have a figure circa £200+ million. This is still far lower than the £5.3 billion figure GERW gives as a consequence of our underperforming economy.

It is decades of Unionist Conservative and Labour government economic policy with regards to Wales that has failed. That should be the focus for the Indy Wales movement.

Correcting the weaknesses in our economy should be the prime focus of independence as that is what will have the greatest positive impact on people’s lives and making our communities and country financially sustainable.

But in the meantime, we should stop saying retirees moving to Wales are a burden on our economy.

Croeso

Hi. Welcome to my blog. I often write fairly lengthy threads on Twitter about #indyWales. I figured it might just be better to write under a blog format and link to these essays on Twitter. I don’t claim to be an authority. I’m just an average guy who thinks that Wales should establish a democratic state of its’ own. Everything I write on this blog will be nothing more or less than my own opinion. Feel free to disagree with me … I just hope I can give a little food for thought on the matter of Welsh Independence.

A little about me – I enjoy Science Fiction. I speak Welsh. I’m a massive metalhead. I take an interest in History, Economics and Politics. I’m a member of Plaid Cymru and my politics are liberal-left and green.

So I guess you know what to expect now. I’ll start by posting some articles I wrote in the past for Nation.Cymru. I’ll try and rewrite a couple of threads and then I’ll start posting some new stuff.

Hwyl am y tro,

Arwyn.