After the Constitutional Commission - Mapping the Road to Independence


On 31st January 2024, I attended a talk with Rhun ap Iorwerth, the leader of Plaid Cymru. He was joined by Dr Anwen Elias, who is the CWPS-WISERD Co-director as well as a commission member. The talk was held in the Norwegian Church Arts Centre in Cardiff Bay. The venue was cosy, with nice stained-glass windows, a coffee shop and friendly faces. For those of us who do not speak Welsh, we were given translation headsets that allowed us to understand the talk in full. 

Firstly, CWPS is an interdisciplinary research centre at Aberystwyth University. It aims at developing our understanding of contemporary politics and society in Wales, whilst supporting and delivering world-class research in the social sciences. Their work contributes to public knowledge and debates as well as policy development in Wales. The talk was a commentary on the findings from the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales. The main findings from the report were that devolution was a major step forward for Welsh democracy, but the current settlement has been eroded by the decisions of recent UK governments. Secondly, Wales' economy has not prospered over a long period within the UK, but its prospects outside the UK are highly uncertain. And finally, there must be a different kind of UK that would consider the interests of the people of Wales. However, the talk emphasised that the possibility of a reformed UK is still debatable.  

Iorwerth stated that strengthening Welsh democracy must continue beyond the final report from the commission. He also went on to suggest that economic development and fairer values must go hand-in-hand with constitutional change. This would start with an improved education system which allows more opportunities for Welsh citizens. It was said that Ireland is a great example for having invested in education after achieving independence from the UK. Iorwerth also went on to proudly say: ‘Independence is a journey Wales is on.’ This was met with agreement from the crowd. 

But what has a devolved Welsh government done already? Iorwerth told us that they have made school meals free for all primary school children, extended free childcare, enforced a second home tax and strengthened the Welsh language. However, Iorwerth suggested: ‘There is still so much to do, and it is not as good as it gets for Wales.’ However, it was stated that the Tory party looked to evolve back from devolution rather than support it, thus threatening the democratic order for Welsh citizens. 

Iorwerth went on to suggest that the votes in the UK government have the ability to undo 25 years of Welsh devolutions, and that ‘independence is the only answer’. He also said that the laws imposed on Wales are against their will and that Wales has little say in these decisions. The prospect of Labour coming to Wales’ rescue was also denounced as Iorwerth stated that Keir Starmer had shown little want in supporting Welsh independence, and that he is on the fence about the devolution question. Additionally, the suggestion to federalise the UK is not ‘convincing’ enough for Iorwerth.  

An interesting question was posed: what currency would an independent Wales adopt? Wales may wish to keep the Pound, adopt the Euro if it were to join the EU, or create its own currency. It was said that a new currency would provide greater financial flexibility as well as financial stability for Wales. 

Another question was posed: Could Wales afford independence? Iorwerth explained that a decade of Tory rule highlights the fact that the UK is not showing its worth, and that we are still waiting to reap the benefits.  The Plaid Cymru leader also stated that 2.6 billion GDP would be allocated to Wales from day one of independence, which fits into the quota for a stable independent country. 

Lastly, the Plaid Cymru leader ended the talk by suggesting that it would be detrimental to stay in a union that ‘does not hear your voice’. He also stated that ‘Wales can afford not to be an independent country’ and that ‘Wales’ best days are yet to come’. 

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