Plaid Cymru's vision of an independent Wales
SO what does independence in Europe really mean?"Plaid Cymru's policy hasn't changed. We've always believed that Wales should have the right to a seat at the United Nations, and have long advocated that Wales can become a member state of the European Union. Six countries smaller - and poorer - than Wales will be joining the European Union soon. We simply want Wales to have the same chance."You could call this self-government, full national status or independence in Europe."Everyone living in Wales would become a citizen of Wales. There would be a written constitution and Bill of Rights."
WHEN would it happen?"Only when the people of Wales wanted it."We want to see a full legislative and fiscal Parliament established in Wales as soon as possible. This in itself wouldn't change the UK - Scotland already has such a Parliament."Any future steps - such as becoming a member of the European Union could only be decided by a referendum."
WOULDN'T it cost a fortune?"It could save us a fortune. Blair and Bush's illegal and immoral war in Iraq has already cost the taxpayer £3bn. It's predicted to soar to at least £6bn. That's £100m a month or the equivalent of 2p on income tax."Independence in Europe means the freedom not to waste our money on capitalism's wars or nuclear weapons!"
BUT doesn't England subsidise Wales?"Only if you believe the Tory myths still peddled by Peter Hain."Back in the mists of time the anti-devolution William Hague published figures claiming Wales received £5.7bn annual subsidy from the UK."These figures were comprehensively rubbished by Rhodri Morgan and Kevin Brennan MP. It's a disgrace that Peter Hain prefers Tory maths over his own party's figures."The Labour Party itself claimed the figure was more like £1bn."This still sounds a lot, but would be wiped out by the Assembly Government's own claim of economic growth in Wales over the next three years."So if you believe Peter Hain's figures, you must also believe Rhodri Morgan will fail to improve the Welsh economy. One thing's for certain, Plaid Cymru can do better."
WHAT will happen to the Queen in an Independent Wales?"The Queen could remain head of state. Plaid Cymru would want Wales to be a member of the Commonwealth."This is a real question for the current United Kingdom as well."
WHAT about the £?"Plaid Cymru has no plans for an independent Welsh currency."Sooner or later, the UK will have to decide whether to join the Euro, so this is a question for the UK as well as Wales. We want to see the Euro introduced in the UK when the time is right. This bridge will certainly have to have been crossed before self-government becomes a reality.
WOULD there be a Welsh army?"Not necessarily, though of course there would be Welsh soldiers as now. The growth of European integrated defence will overtake any feasible timetable for self-government."Wales could be like Ireland - making a valuable contribution to UN peacekeeping - or could negotiate a different defence relationship with the rest of the British Isles. Plaid Cymru would want Wales to be part of European co-operation on defence."One thing's for certain, Wales would not need to be part of the post-colonial clean-up of the British state's past mistakes (such as Iraq, formed as a British protectorate), and we would not need immoral nuclear weapons.
WHAT about immigration and passport control?"These are again issues moving increasingly to the European level of deliberation even under the current UK arrangements."If you've ever taken a day trip to Ireland or driven between Belgium and France, you'll know that the European Union is founded on the free movement of goods and people."Wales would share immigration control with other European countries and certainly I hope provide a real welcome to bone fide refugees.
DO you really believe an independent Wales could be economically viable?"Independence in Europe would undoubtedly bring a huge boost to the economy of Wales."Plaid Cymru wants Wales to take its place among the nations of Europe, not to make ourselves separate or isolated, but to get the best deal for our nation."At present the Barnett formula and lack of full additionality for European funding shortchanges the Welsh nation. Like Ireland, we believe Wales in Europe could become a beacon of regeneration."There is no lack of ambition, invention and go-ahead in Wales. What holds us back is being tied in to the most centralised and unequal economy in Europe."The UK has the worst level of regional disparity of all European countries. The Labour Party seems content to let Wales stew in a state of constant dependency.
HOW would the Welsh health service stand up to independence?"The present situation has led to one in 10 of the Welsh population being on a waiting list. It's a scandal and an indictment of the National Assembly Government."A Parliament could negotiate a funding formula for Wales to make up for the years of under-investment and to reflect our real needs. For example, 18 per cent of the population in Wales have long term sick needs compared with a UK average of 13 per cent."Long-term care for the elderly could be provided as in Scotland, and legislation to set up Foundation Hospitals would not apply in Wales.
AND what about our schools and education?"A Parliament could usher in curriculum reflecting Welsh needs, including citizenship and our place in the world. With a Parliament, Wales could decide differently to England on top-up fees."The Welsh language could be more fully supported and promoted, particularly for adult learners. English and Welsh would be official languages and neither monolingualism nor bilingualism would be thrust down peoples' throats.
WHAT about Wales' environment and its agriculture?"Sustainable development would be at the heart of Plaid Cymru's self-governing Wales."We are fast becoming the dirty man of Europe. Our greenhouse gas emissions are up, not down, and we have atrocious recycling rates."Most environmental legislation now originates at the European level. Wales would be part of planning a clean, green future for all of us."We have huge water and renewable energy resources and we could reject the massive subsidy to the nuclear industry."Already this year, British Energy has received £1bn from the Treasury to prop it up."We would be able to negotiate directly with the European Commission on agricultural reform, fighting to keep our rural economy and family farms in business."We could reject GM crops. We could ensure land in the right place for affordable homes, a socialist objective that has been sadly ignored.
COULD Wales really be seen as a nation of its own?"Like the 90 or so nations that are smaller than us, Wales would play its full part in the United Nations."However, independence in Europe would give us the opportunity, when appropriate, to reject war-making as the French and Germans did over Iraq."We want independence in Europe to join with other nations, including England, Scotland and Ireland, in the fight for a more peaceful, just world."This won't set us apart, but rather bring us even closer together with other nations. Wales has nothing to lose but its chains."