Is Wales too small or too poor to be independent? A reply.

Dr John Ball’s responds to Mike Hedges AM’s recent response to his articles on the economic arguments for and against an independent Wales

When I read Mike Hedge’s most recent reply to my previous articles, I checked the date – was it meant for April first?


Quite what point he was making about Cardiff and Swansea escapes me, a new set of city states based on the ancient Greek model? Or is this the beginning of (a very amateurish) project fear?


I wonder if Mike Hedges actually read (or indeed understood) my click on wales article. Within the article I presented a reasoned picture, noted there is considerable uncertainty as to current total tax revenue, examined payments that clearly should not be part of Wales’ expenses and concluded with ideas on innovative taxes – the latter two would considerably reduce the (supposed) budget deficit.


Perhaps a brief re-cap. The recent Cardiff University report suggested a current budget deficit of some 23% of GDP; a careful analysis of relevant spending – given the figures used – showed a deficit nearer 10%. Different and innovative forms of taxation available to a government independent of the UK, would go a considerable way to reducing it. Incidentally, all countries, with very few exceptions, run a deficit.


In one sense however I do agree with his comments. Currently, the Welsh economy, as measured by GVA is one of the poorest in Europe. “I did not stand for election,” he states “to make my constituents poorer.”  Strange that, the Welsh economy has been in decline since the establishment of the Assembly, and on his party’s watch.


The second part of Mike Hedges’ contribution displays an astonishing lack of reality, although a nice contribution to project fear. He attempts to paint a gloomy picture of the consequences of independence, preferring instead Wales being locked forever into a rump UK, dominated by, and having to abide by, laws, regulations, and rulings set by Westminster assisted by the Bank of England.  An independent state will be free to set its own laws and regulations in accordance with its own needs and, most importantly, values.


The issue of currency, a currency union and the role of central banks was discussed in  my click on wales article on 5th December 2017. Again, perhaps a brief re-cap. A currency union based on the pound already exists and may well, for stability, continue for a time after independence. There is no reason why we should not continue using the pound, use another currency or indeed establish a new currency as did the new nations that emerged in the nineties – what started this debate was the original article by Mike Hedges referring to the peaceful breakup of the former Czechoslovakia and (implicitly) the birth of their own currencies.


He raises the issue of a “hard border” – a word that has entered the lexicon of politics as a result of the bungling Westminster government. An independent Wales would continue to trade with the rest of the nations within the British Isles, as it would with the rest of the world, whatever the outcome of the Brexit farce. Throughout Europe the borders are open (and will remain so) – there is no border between Norway (not in the EU) and Sweden (in the EU); there has always been open trading between Ireland and the UK and between the countries of Scandinavia – long before the EU.


In my original article I noted that “ (the deficit)… has been blissfully leapt upon by those who delight in maintaining the myth that Wales is too poor ever to consider becoming a sovereign state – a state of penury will exist.” Q.E.D.


Imagine a country with a growing economy, well paid jobs, an envied health service and a world class education system. Sorry, I forgot. I live in Wales.


During the Scottish referendum a particular slogan rang out Scotland, you can do better than this – Wales, you too can do better than this.


Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels


All articles published on Click on Wales are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.



Dr John Ball is a former lecturer in economics at Swansea University.

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