Greater than the sum of its parts

Andrew RT Davies looks at the benefits of the union.

On Thursday the 18th September the people of Scotland will have an opportunity to decide the future of the United Kingdom. It is a vote that should stir an interest in everyone from Land’s End to Londonderry, Gower to John O’Groats. Whatever the outcome, the effects will be felt by us all, setting in motion a chain of events that will shape devolution for future generations.

This week on Click on Wales

 This week on Click on Wales we’ve been examining the implications of the Scottish vote on Wales with a series from Welsh party leaders Leanne Wood, Kirsty Williams and Andrew RT Davies.

This comes ahead of the IWA’s key conference held this afternoon at the Wales Millennium Centre, which sets out to ask ‘What about Wales?’ This event focused on the effects of the referendum features an exciting lineup including Simon Jenkins, Gerald Holtham, Leanne Wood, Kirsty Williams and David Marquand. Tickets are now sold out, but join the debate on Twitter with the hashtag #IWAReferendum

The United Kingdom has survived for over 300 years, becoming the most successful political, economic and social union the world has ever seen. Together we have fought Hitler’s fascist forces, developed a parliamentary democracy which has been imitated around the globe, and left a cultural imprint which is the envy of the world. Now the Scottish Nationalist Party want to pull it apart.

But those looking for evidence of why we are ‘better together’ don’t have to look too far…

The NHS was created by a Welshman, the Welfare State by the English, and public service broadcasting in the form of the BBC by a Scot.

Together we have representation on the most powerful decision-making bodies in the world – NATO, the United Nations, the Commonwealth and G7. Together, we represent one of the largest trading markets in the world and speak on world affairs with a clear voice.

Together we are greater than the sum of our parts.

In the modern era, Wales and Scotland have much in common; devolved institutions with real decision-making powers, and a confident sense of national identity.

Together with England and Northern Ireland we form a partnership of independent-minded nations, tightly bonded by shared values and respect for each other’s unique cultural traits.

Alex Salmond’s SNP want to dismantle this shared history. They were founded with this moment in mind.

Salmond sees it as his Bannockburn. For those of us who envisage a shared future there is hope that this Napoleon could be leading his troops to their Waterloo.

The question isn’t whether Scotland could make it on its own, but why she would want to. What can Scotland achieve outside of the union that it cannot from within? And what would the future hold for a smaller, independent nation outside of the collective strength of the UK?

For Wales the implications are no less profound. As Lord Bourne wrote this week – the outcome will affect us all, no matter the result.

Whatever Alex Salmond may claim, the Scottish people are not being asked to choose between independence and the status quo. Even here in Wales, the Wales Bill currently being considered by the House of Lords will change the shape of devolution as we currently know it.

For Scotland, meanwhile, a number of measures are being drawn up by each of the major parties to offer what is termed ‘Devo-Max’ – should the Scottish electorate choose to stay in the United Kingdom. And then there is the English Question.

This is but one strand of a debate that will continue throughout these isles in the coming years, and one which will change the way devolution is administered for each and every constituent part of the UK.

Whilst I don’t want to countenance the idea of a ‘YES’ vote, I have no doubt that the influence of both Wales and the United Kingdom as a whole would be greatly diminished by a Scottish exit. Together with our friends and neighbours in Scotland, Northern Ireland and England we provide much-needed balance to the union – culturally, socially and economically.

Campaign coverage has focused heavily on the economic impact of independence, and unionists have made short work of dismissing Alex Salmond’s economic fantasies – but in the few days which remain that focus must now be on making the case for how we are stronger together.

We must stay positive and remind our Scottish neighbours of our shared history – of our desire for a shared future. The union isn’t just a flag or a name, it’s the way we live. It’s not owned or dominated by one of its constituent parts, but developed in partnership over three centuries of shared interest and values.

Economically, culturally and emotionally the United Kingdom ties us together. Instead of seeking to dismantle it, we should be building firm foundations for another 300 years together.

It’s not for a Welshman to tell the Scottish how to vote but let me be clear, this Welshman very much hopes that you will choose to stay.

Andrew RT Davies is Leader of the Welsh Conservatives. He is Assembly Member for South Wales Central.

Comments are closed.

Also within Politics and Policy