As the polls narrow in Scotland’s referendum campaign the panic-stricken ‘no’ camp are now belatedly falling over themselves with promises of ‘jam tomorrow’ should the Scots vote their way.
Such promises are accompanied with threats to Scots if they vote to become an independent country. Such an approach has failed so far and it is hard to see how it will work in the final days of the referendum campaign.
This week on Click on Wales
This week on Click on Wales we’ll be 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 Thursday 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. Limited numbers of tickets are still available at our Eventbrite site.
Plaid Cymru has repeatedly warned that promises from the three Westminster parties cannot be taken at face value. There are two primary reasons for this.
Firstly, their track record suggests that they seldom keep such promises. As recently as January the Lib Dem Chief Secretary of the Treasury was explicit in a letter ruling out any financial arrangements that could potentially put one part of the UK at an advantage over the others. That is, Wales – or Scotland – should not be free to pursue fiscal arrangements that might deviate from the Westminster’s line.
He need only have said ‘Westminster is sovereign.’
As there has been no further correspondence announcing a u-turn, we can only surmise that the UK Government’s position has not changed.
Remember, this particular policy of inflexibility arises despite the UK Government’s own independent, cross-party commission recommending income tax devolution to Wales without the caveats that Westminster is insisting upon.
And just weeks ago Unionist MPs voted against empowering Wales further during a debate on the Wales Bill. Promises made are not met with action when it matters.
The second reason to be sceptical of any belated promises from the no camp stems from a deep suspicion that far from ushering in a new era of quasi-federalism, the result of Scotland rejecting self-rule would amount to a renewed mandate for Westminster to run Scotland.
It is also not inconceivable to envisage a Tory party in the near future led by the current mayor of London and a significant UKIP parliamentary presence at Westminster. That combination occurring within months of Scots voting ‘no’, makes the prospect of any serious devolution doubtful to say the least.
The only way for Scotland to secure greater, meaningful powers is to ensure that the exercise of Scottish sovereignty that will occur on the 18th remains for every day after that with a ‘yes’ vote.
From a Welsh perspective, Scotland’s debate has significant ramifications. But it has also exposed the woeful and incoherent position of the current party of government in Wales.
It is worth pondering whether history will judge it as shameful, that during this period of unprecedented opportunity, Wales’ First Minister argued for any new powers on offer to Scotland also to be offered to Wales, and then immediately listed a series of new powers he would reject.
Before the summer, Plaid Cymru outlined the intellectual basis for the future development of Wales’ constitution.
Plaid Cymru starts from the premise that it is the people of Wales who are sovereign.
On a practical level that means a new process where the people of Wales themselves decide on which decisions should be made at home and which should be shared with others – without any limitations for debate imposed by political parties or governments.
Plaid Cymru made the case for a citizen-led process to include the people composing a written constitution for our country. As well as empowering Wales our constitution would also be an expression of our collective national values.
And we’ve made the case for a powers reserved model – powers reserved to Wales unless the people themselves have expressed their desire to cede or share them.
Crucially, we believe the constitution of Wales belongs to the people of Wales – not to Westminster.
Plaid Cymru wants the National Assembly to have the power to hold binding referenda and at a time when the people of Wales want it, we hope to see Wales having a national conversation akin to the one Scotland is having right now.
The best context for such rebalancing of political power away from the London city-state would be in the event of a ‘yes’ vote on the 18th.
Otherwise, we run the risk of investing all our hopes in three parties who are clearly hoping for a ‘no’ vote to act as a precursor for a Westminster renaissance.