Stop the world we want to get on

Leanne Wood argues that the cause of national independence is essentially about renewing old friendships

Plaid Cymru wants Wales to join the community of nations. That aspiration is based on a desire to contribute to the world in a spirit of international solidarity. Contrary to the myth that statehood equates to isolation or ‘separation’, we contend that self-government leads to enhanced partnerships.

As we enter the final twelve months of the Scottish referendum campaign, the debate around what Britain will look like on the morning of the 19th of September 2014 will increase in intensity. What everyone can agree on is that no matter the outcome, the relationships between the nations of these islands will change forever. That statement need not sound as daunting as some would suggest. In fact it’s liberating.

One year to go

With just 12 months before the Scottish referendum on 18 September 2014 we are running a series of articles this week:

  • Tomorrow: Stephen Noon, chief strategist with Yes Scotland, says whatever the result of the referendum, Scotland and the rest of the UK will be closely intertwined.
  • Saturday: Charlie Jeffery, of Edinburgh University, describes a project that aims to keep us informed as the debate gathers pace.
  • Sunday:  James Mitchell, of Edinburgh University, analyses how the Yes and No campaigns are framing the referendum debate. .

Whether a new state emerges from these islands next autumn or not, is irrelevant to the wider issue of the nature of our relationships with each other as the peoples of Britain and Ireland. A new state may emerge, but the old nations will remain.

As the countdown to the Scottish referendum begins, it is up to us in Wales ensure that the constitutional changes that occur over the next year do not result in us being side-lined either by Tory indifference or Labour’s desperate avoidance to address the aspirations of the people. Its also worth spelling out how the creation of a new partnership within the British Isles could be facilitated.

It has been my long-standing view, that following a ‘Yes’ vote next year, a treaty of succession between Scotland and the UK should not exclude the Welsh Government. There will be a serious democratic deficit if negotiations on behalf of Wales are led by David Cameron, who has no mandate from our people.  Crucial issues such as the future of nuclear weapons and state assets will be agreed upon in such negotiations and all will have repercussions for Wales. Our exclusion from such negotiations would be unacceptable.

As those negotiations take place, I believe all the nations of these islands, the then three sovereign governments, the two remaining devolved administrations, in addition to the three Crown dependencies, will face an opportunity – curiously for the first time – to agree on a new framework for British-Irish co-operation. We already have, in the form of the British-Irish Council, the institution that could facilitate new Anglo-Celtic Accords, enshrining for the first time, the sovereignty of the peoples and affirming each nation’s right to follow its own constitutional path.

In Wales we have heard calls for a UK constitutional convention and whilst I’d welcome every opportunity to advance Wales’ case, it seems shortsighted to look internally within the British State for a new constitutional settlement when it makes perfect sense for such changes to be made within the context of the British Isles as a whole.

Within the Accords Plaid Cymru proposes, the governments could, in addition to constitutional relations, elaborate on four key strands for co-operation: the economy and taxation, defence and foreign affairs, energy and the environment, and free travel and crime.

Co-operation in these fields within the context of formal accords between our nations would provide the basis for collaboration on issues as diverse as formulating a currency union and overcoming tax evasion especially in the Crown dependencies, establishing a joint British-Irish peace-keeping force to meet our shared European and international obligations, and working together to maximise the potential of our natural resources.

As the ‘Yes’ campaign in Scotland have outlined during the referendum campaign, securing independence results in assuming responsibilities. Responsibilities to act in the interests of citizens and, crucially, a responsibility to work constructively with others.

Our Nordic neighbours have shown the endless possibilities when a group of nations, with varying constitutional statuses, pull together, building on their shared past, but with a commitment to a shared future.

The 1949 Ireland Act at Westminster proclaimed that whilst the Republic of Ireland’s independence was recognised, the new state and its citizens would not be considered foreign or alien. In that spirit, new accords in these islands would confirm that far from being an isolationist pursuit, the noble cause of national independence is in fact essentially about renewing old friendships.

Leanne Wood is AM for South Wales Central and Leader of Plaid Cymru

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