Scottish Independence: Impact on Wales
The Scottish referendum on independence is set for later this year and many questions surround this issue regarding what will happen to the other UK nations if Scotland decides to leave the union. England is strong in itself, Northern Ireland has the choice to return to the Republic if it wishes but for Wales the future is uncertain. What is the most realistic outcome for Wales if independence is gained by Scotland?
It is no surprise that many have jumped on the bandwagon and suggested that Wales will follow Scotland and make its own bid for independence. For Plaid Cymru this would be the desired outcome. Party Leader Leanne Wood voiced her support for Welsh independence from the beginning suggesting that it could be gained within ten years. However Wales as a country is simply not strong enough to attain this. National support for independence has remained at roughly 10% and with Labour currently holding power in the Welsh assembly it is unlikely that this option would even be considered. Aside from this a major issue remains with regards to the Welsh economy. Financially Wales could not afford to break away from Westminster because the economy would simply not survive. Currently the Welsh economy is subsidised by Westminster and is dependent on this support. Without this aid the economy would simply collapse and leave Wales in a dire situation. Many voters are going to view this as a serious reason to vote against independence. It is unlikely that Plaid Cymru will succeed in persuading the Welsh people that independence would be the best for Wales and its people.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the argument for a complete English-dominated Parliament. If Scotland does leave the United Kingdom, the House of Commons will be made up of over 500 MPs coming from England and only a total of 550 seats. English MPs could end up controlling the political scene at Westminster only acting in their own interests and pushing the voices of Wales and Northern Ireland out. Currently the Celtic nations are backed up by force from the Scottish MPs, teamed with those from Wales and Northern Ireland. However without this teamwork it is likely that England could just go ahead and make its own decisions without taking into consideration those of the other nations. To ensure that this does not happen there is a need for radical changes to be made with a number of institutional reforms already been suggested to help prevent this from taking place. It is important that whatever happens, Wales’ voice is not lost.
Realistically if in September Scotland does go off and establishes itself as an independent country, Welsh politicians will fight to gain more powers devolved to the Welsh Assembly to show how Wales wants to and can make certain decisions for itself. Many powers have already been put in the hands of the Welsh Assembly and following the successful 2011 referendum to extend these powers there is no doubt that Welsh politicians will want to push for more. Without radical change independence will not take place, however it is clear that Wales will want certain powers for itself to maintain a strong political voice in the United Kingdom. They do not want to be controlled by any other country but want to continue to be involved in the Union whichever way it ends up going. At the end of the day the fate of Wales’ future lies in the hands of Scottish voters.