Wales’ First Minister pushes commitment to federal UK

Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, has launched a campaign for an early move to federalism for the UK.

Speaking to members of the Welsh Assembly and reported in today’s, 26th December 2013, edition of The Independent, Mr Jones – a committed unionist, declared the UK ‘constitution’ unfit for the 21st century, noting that it is indefensible for the Westminster Secretary of State for Wales to have the power to veto Bills at the Welsh Assembly. Of course it is. It may not be a power put to use but such a power ought not to exist.

In a thoughtful discourse which identifies serious obstacles to the continuation of the status quo, whatever happens in the Scottish Independence Referendum, Mr Jones sees the UK’s ‘constitution’ as having reached the limits of its ability to accommodate devolution.

He opposes Scottish independence on two main grounds of the interest of Wales:

  • if Scotland left the Union, Wales would lose a friend and partner in the  negotiations with the UK government;
  • if Scotland left the Union, Wales, with Northern Ireland, would statistically be left even more prey to the economic dominance of England.

As he has already made clear, if Scotland left the Union and wished to press for membership of a Sterling zone, Mr Jones would use his veto to block it – in the interests of Wales.  He sees the delay in coming to any agreement on monetary policy for a sterling zone, with two governments involved, as ‘dithering around’ in a waste of strategic decision-taking time that Wales will not tolerate.

The Scottish Government’s response to Mr Jones’ concerns about the impact on Wales of being left within the Union in even greater deficit to the weight of England is a reassurance of the opposite, with absolutely no argument presented to back up the assertion. This is becoming the way of ‘debate’ on Scottish independence. Just say it like you want it.

While Mr Jones argument is statistically irrefutable in pointing to a greater imbalance than is the current case within the Union, the Scottish Government has nevertheless declared that a Yes vote will help Wales, saying: ‘It will also benefit the rest of the UK – including Wales – by helping to redress the huge economic imbalances currently in favour of London and the south east of England.’


This is handy dog-whistle rhetoric but, understandably, makes no attempt to explain the inexplicable. It would, though, be interesting to see the detail in defence of any such argument. It can only be predicated on the assumption of an independent Scotland immediately becoming an economic powerhouse, acting then as a counter to the engine of the south east.

This transformation cannot possibly happen under the current Scottish Government propositions, as has been exhaustively demonstrated by independent financial analysts. [It gets tedious to repeat the key facts of the balance sheet of the current prospectus and can seem like a slam-dunk obsession, so we do not propose to give it again; but if anyone wants it, we will add it in a comment to this piece.]

Of course Scotland can be an independent country but it cannot instantly be more prosperous on the sound of the liberty bell.  Nor can it pay for the increased slate of promised additional benefits without raising the funds for these from somewhere – and, under the current proposals, that can only be from income tax. In this case, many of the middle class, the engine of the economy and the most likely target of raised income tax, would simply ship out. What would they be getting in exchange for their higher taxes?

So the reassurances given in response to Mr Jones’ concerns for Wales are insubstantial, if not nonsensical.

With the Welsh economy growing faster than any in the UK except the south east and the north west of England, Carwyn Jones says straightforwardly that, in the event of a vote for Scotland to remain in the Union, Wales could not be treated as ‘second class’ to Scotland.

With economic muscle to flex, the dragon seems to be limbering up at last, getting more assertive. The dynamic of the UK, whatever happens next September, will be different in future.

Jones says – in an echo of the Scottish Government’s mantra – that ‘… we need to have proper control over our resources to create jobs in Wales. We don’t have that at the moment’.

This would indicate a new will to press for the greater devolved powers the UK government is said to be ready to pass to Scotland – total control over income tax related matters and control over housing benefit as well as housing policy.

If the UK is indeed ready to pass these powers to Scotland, there is no reason not to pass them to Wales as well. Wales loses out by £300 million a year from the imbalance of the Barnet formula for the calculation of the revenue share out between the constituent states of the UK – a formula which favours Scotland, yet makes little complaint.

Carwyn Jones describes the prospect of an English Parliament as ‘the elephant in the room’ in a debate on the constitution. This understates the position. An English parliament is an imperative. Without it there is a unacceptable democratic deficit.

Scotland is  not debating independence from England. It is debating independence from the United Kingdom, which is made up of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and, currently, Scotland.

This United Kingdom has not yet completed its devolution evolution. It cannot have a coherent political identity until that is done.

In a way Scotland is considering separation prematurely. We do not yet know what the completed devolution revolution will look like or how it will work. Whatever we do, it would be a pity not to be a part of the excitement of the last and arguably most substantial part of that process.

The UK’s current political arrangements, as they stand, cannot withstand any rational scrutiny. They are the traditional British fudge. England is denied the management of its affairs that the other member nations already have in different degree. That England, largely, does not complain about this does not make it acceptable.

The question of whether the solution to the English democratic deficit is an English parliament or a series of English regional parliaments or assemblies is not one that can be made by any existing elected body. No current body has the right to speak for England.

The only solution to this is an English referendum – or referenda – to enable England to decide on the shape of its own devolution – as the next move towards the federal relationship that is the most developmental future for all of us.

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40 Responses to Wales’ First Minister pushes commitment to federal UK

  1. Lies
    How would Wales have a veto in anything. It is subservient to the English Crown.
    Scotland contributes more per head
    Cost of nuclear weapons per year can be used for other uses.
    The middle classes would ship out — to where. What job is waiting for them in England. More tosh from For Argyll.
    Scotland is considering “independence” prematurely?! What planet are you on. Scotland voted the snp in on a majority. The bitter together folk still cannot stomach that.
    England cannot speak for itself? Watch BBC PARLIAMENT it does just fine. Another for argyll lack of research. Just say you are an organ for the Bitter all Together lot.
    At least for once you would be telling the truth.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 26 Thumb down 10

    • On a point of fact, we did not say that ‘England cannot speak for itself’.
      Our argument is that no body is currently entitled to speak for England and that it must be enabled to speak for itself.
      Why would you wish to deny to England the powers over its circumstances that were devolved to Scotland some time ago and which we have enjoyed since?

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 25

    • You question whether a substantial percentage of the working middle class in Scotland would ship out if its income tax was raised.
      The independent analysis is that it will take a 3% income tax hike to raise the money to pay for the cost of the additional benefits newly offered as vote-bait by the Scottish Government – the universal right to 30 hours per week of childcare and the abolition of the bedroom tax.
      We asked here what the working middle class would see in return for paying substantially raised levels of income tax. No one, yourself included, has answered that question.
      If you doubt that a volume of this powerful element of the national economic engine would ship out, think back to the SNP’s 1999 Scottish election campaign: ‘A penny for Scotland’. That was asking for a 1% tax hike to pay for additional benefits for Scotland in its newly devolved state.
      The answer was a resounding ‘No’ from the electorate. The majority – even the bravehearts – were not prepared to pay 1% extra income tax for Scotland.
      What, realistically, is the chance of many people staying to pay an additional 3% now – and doing so not within the economic shelter of the union but in a punt on separation from that union on what is, honestly, a very dodgy prospectus.
      We are saying this from being one of the few who, if we had been given an honest prospectus on the tougher immediate future of an independent Scotland but leading to a consciously shaped exercise in nation building [neither of which the White paper is doing] – are on the record as having been prepared to pay for that.
      Paying for the demonstrably dishonest prospectus being touted in this campaign is a different matter altogether.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 12

      • The bravehearts — you use the term condescendingly — which is good for it shows you believe your argument is on shoogly pegs but as a Scot I can take the charge from someone sitting with 2 passports and no doubt would do a runner. I am ok with that as new people to an independent Scotland will fill the void. Can I say to all those middle classes threatening to leave an independent Scotland I will help you pack whatever your nationality.
        Now back to real politik and reality. If you are comfortable and in a job you will not leave despite newsies protestations– the middle class will look around and see that an independent Scotland will offer more opportunities for them and their children should they wish to grab the opportunity.
        The English Middle class will not welcome you with open arms even if you wave a wee union flag.

        The alternative ? debt ridden corrupt Westminster 20 years of more debt and austerity although this does not apply to the wealthy who lie and say we are in it all together.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

  2. “No current body has the right to speak for England”, and you are telling copycat that you did not say “England cannot speak for itself” ???
    England is England and has had a parliament for nearly a thousand years and voyaged round the world planting flags on other peoples shores, even small coral attols, “Claiming them for England and the King” and imposing rule. Then a couple of hundred years ago they changed the name to UK Parliament, and continues to have a lot more MPs with voting rights than anyone else.
    You also say “the dragon seems to be limbering up at last, getting more assertive”, but you did not say “how dare they” like you say to the Unicorn. And if they ever start their own YES campaign would their “engine of the economy” “simply ship out”, or is it just us. I would bet that the Welsh are as proud of being Welsh as the English are of being English.
    Looking back at the relevent history, the solution you put forward in your last paragraph should take about another thousand years.
    Look forward and be positive, I am sure Scots want to know both sides of the story of their future.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 19 Thumb down 6

    • You do not understand the logic of what we have said, which is correct.
      There is also no such thing as an ‘English parliament’.
      The parliament at Westminster is the UK Parliament.
      If it were not, why would Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland elect members to an English parliament?
      The English elect members to the UK parliament, as we all do; and they elect them to do a specific job there, as we all do.
      That parliament is composed of the MPs from all of the four members of the United Kingdom; and it exists in the interests of all four, not of any single member nation.
      Scotland would not recognise the UK Parliament’s right to speak for Scotland – and, by its nature, the UK Parliament has the same inability to speak for England.
      England has no devolved parliament or assembly – therefore there is no body with the legal and constitutional authority to speak for England,

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 12

      • Trouble is Newsie, if we’re doing our best to be consistent here which is what I believe you do in calling for England to have their own parliament, that’s fair, of course it is, but when talking of democracy and accountability, should Scotland in general elections only elect say two Tory MP’s and England say 300 then decisions made in a UK parliament do not fairly represent the wishes of a Scottish electorate.
        Representation, accountability, democracy, all hugely important when striving for fairness.
        This existing union certainly props up a deficit in these.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 6

        • “there is no body with the authority to speak for England” – you are right there newsie – no body except the overwhelmingly english dominated members of the Westminster Parliament. With that built in population majority they don’t need their own dedicated “body”. All Westminster policy is aimed predominantly at English voters. This is only what one would expect, but it isn’t working for Scotland. It does not work “in the interests of all four”.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 3

        • Let’s be harder headed on this – England HAS to have a devolved parliament, whether or not it is content to muddle on without one.
          For as long as England has no parliament of its own, it appears to have a status above that of its fellow members of the UK in terms of having the services of the UK Houses of Parliament.
          This cannot be the basis of a philosophically defensible ‘union’.
          The other point to be made is that the ‘fairness’ of democracy is very crude – it is based on majority rule. There is a primitive ‘fairness’ in this but in the 21st century we should be doing better than the primitive.
          But for as long as this is the form of democracy we choose or agree to, we must abide by it.
          And it does not always run against us. Scotland’s historic socialism has seen Labour UK governments where England has, in its internal majority, voted Conservative.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

          • I didn’t say England shouldn’t have it’s own parliament – I agree with you that it should, and I think a “Yes” vote will help them to achieve that. Agree about the primitive nature of current democracy too, with the much greater communications facilities we have now it should be possible to change that. The corollary is that we need much better education for all citizens.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

      • NEWSIE/ for argyll

        Tell me the current bias on the House of Lords ie English Lords and Ladies and in Scotland.
        Remind me re the democratic deficit again– how do I elect them to govern me?

        Do they represent the current political makeup of Scotland?

        Oh never mind — you will tug the forelock and look for a gong for the New Year and call it democracy.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 3

        • The House of Lords is an undemocratic mess, revised – half revised – by Tony Bair into nothing more than a different kind of undemocratic mess.
          The fact that, on occasion, it rises magnificently to the challenge and thwarts governmental attempts to push through unable or damaging legislation is no argument for its retention in its current state.
          On the evidence of For Argyll’s willingness to hold anyone at any level to account, without fear or favour, your description of us, or of any of us individually, as ‘a forelock tugger’ lacks substance.
          We are utterly opposed to ‘honours’, finding it impossible to believe that anyone takes such ruritanian nonsense seriously.
          However, when others are offered and accept them and are pleased at the award, we may inwardly groan but we will congratulate them.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 7

          • Magnificently to the challenge of what ? Self interest and deceipt.
            Undemocratic put there to keep the vested interests in charge.
            Are the bitter together gang like you going to campaign on its demise?
            Thought not
            Lord Foulkes, Watson, Archer, what a joke

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

  3. Jones is correct, England quite rightly deserves an English parliament but is not Scotland’s nor Wales concern, this democratic imbalance must be redressed as a result of the will of the English. I do wonder why as Newsie puts it “England largely doesn’t complain about this”, could it be that it is not in the UK’s interests rather than England’s to push for, let alone suggest, for fear of rocking even more an unstable boat in what appear to heading toward even choppier constitutional waters?
    “In a way Scotland is considering separation prematurely. We do not yet know what the completed devolution revolution will look like or how it will work. Whatever we do, it would be a pity not to be a part of the excitement of the last and arguably most substantial part of that process.”
    So again, Scotland should await our fate, allow external affairs to dictate our future? Regardless of what the others do with their respective devolution, why should it serve Scotland and her citizens any better, what’s in it for Scotland, full powers are the tools needed to build a future Scotland, not a tool thrown at us here, a tool there. Scotland with the limited powers we already possess have proven to make best use of, our economy only second to a bloated over-fed south east.
    What would be exciting rather than awaiting the outcome of the devolution process and how it affects this union is like an artist does, facing the daunting but wonderfully challenging and creative blank canvas, Scotland, the people who reside here, being handed this opportunity to redesign our future from scratch, imagination and vision let loose and free from the constraints of old.
    I think that genuinely exciting, not watching those who pull our strings toy with their extra democracy, our Welsh friends catching up with Holyrood in a race for more responsibility.
    The rest of the UK’s ails, certainly not the making of an ambitious forward thinking Scotland, are not of our immediate nor long term concern, they quite rightly are of their own citizens concern.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 5

  4. I am glad to see that you now acknowledge that we are currently “prey to the economic dominance of England”, newsie – a significant step forward for you – we might even get you to vote yes yet, as that is the logical outcome of this realisation. The fact that the Welsh and others will be more exposed is a matter for them to rectify. As for the “completed … devolution evolution” – if we vote No this revolution will have run it’s course – any future UK government will undoubtedly try to ensure that the measure of independence we already have is rolled back till it disappears. The english have shown little appetite so far for their own parliament – why should they, since the present arrangement serves them so well. A “Yes” vote would allow them to progress in this respect.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 5

  5. I wouldn’t say that ” the present arrangement serves England well ” It certainly serves the current establishment well, but that’s not England, and there are an increasing number of English voices raised against it. They just haven’t yet agreed on the best way forward, but the upcoming Scottish referendum has started them thinking, and they won’t stop thinking whether we vote Yes or No. Carwyn Jones has a point, which we should listen to, but he also has an agenda which revolves around Wales. I don’t know what the future holds, but in the longer term it is unlikely to be the status quo … for any of us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

    • You’re quite right – the dynamic will inevitably change, regardless of the result of the September 2014 vote here.
      Things will change because the pressure for change is now coming from almost all quarters and that will build.
      As soon as change of any kind is on the agenda, everyone starts thinking about the kind of change they would like to see for themselves.
      This is happening here in the Northern Isles, with the Western Isles on board. This island group already has assurances of some degree of devolved powers from both the Scottish and Westminster Governments.
      The main issue is the wisdom and efficacy of separatism from what is already a small country – versus the dynamic of thoroughgoing change in the UK itself – which it needs and from which it and its constituent members will benefit.
      This is not just about devolution. It is about how we collaborate and now we govern the core interests in a way which is not intrinsically colonialist.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 9

      • Unfortunately Westminster is irretrievably “intrinsically colonialist”, and has been for a few hundred years now. Loss of most of the Empire has not cured this – Scotland (among others [N. England, Wales, N.I.]) is still looked on and treated as a colony – i.e. it’s interests are routinely subordinated those of the dominant majority. Only a short sharp shock – such as Scottish independence – has a chance of changing this, and (you agree, I think) will do England no end of good, in a number of ways (less foreign adventurism, more focussed notion of “englishness” realistic assessment of position in world etc.)

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  6. A Unionist First Minister speaks, performing the role of being the union’s gatekeeper. He is only First Minister because of Devolution which was an attempt to stifle the Nationalists.
    Devolution was a success in Wales it seems, but it’s real purpose was to control Scotland. Alas, it has not worked here in the way that it was designed.
    Is federalism the new salvation of the gravy train unionist?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

    • With the UK economy now not only recovered but moving to sustained growth, the pressure for departure from the EU is likely to increase – as will the pressure from the EU to keep Britain as a member.
      The popular feeling is probably for exit, with the insecurity of the eurozone known to be a continuing reality and with the stifling bureaucracy of the EC a very real problem.
      If the EU were simply a free trade area and a single labour market, the situation would be very different.
      The political agenda, to create a united states of Europe, has been the stumbling point. The bureaucrats work endlessly to force essentially different elements into the same shape – and the external impacts on our legislation are more seriously deflecting than we have time to digest.
      The introduction of the single currency as an enabler of the political agenda was accompanied by no single monetary policy, leaving weak or irresponsible economies able – as we have seen – to undermine the entire structure. This organic weakness remains essentially unresolved, hence the continuing worry about the stability of the eurozone.
      For Argyll was the first, way back, to suggest that the UK should look at rebuilding EFTA as an alternative option and we continue to see that as a constructive development.
      We cannot continue to bear the weight of EC bureaucracy on top of our local authorities, our devolved parliaments and assemblies and our UK government. It is cripplingly ridiculous for a small country to carry all of that on the backs of its earners.
      And the EC is the most bureaucratic and interventionist of all. The costs alone of implementing administrative and legislative prescriptions from Brussels are absurdly heavy.
      But there is this very British thing of holding on to nurse for fear of something worse…

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 11

      • The long term prospects for the euro zone is still better than the pound sterling. Look at the exchange rate. Without oil the pound will be subject to a run on its currency just like the 70′s

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 4

      • “We cannot continue to bear the weight of EC bureaucracy on top of our local authorities, our devolved parliaments and assemblies and our UK government.”
        Well, for a start lets get rid of the UK government. Then we can consider the rest at our leisure. All in all I think we gain more from the EU, in various ways, (Single Market, (easy tourism), International standing, etc.) than we lose. I also don’t believe that the popular feeling in Scotland is for exit. EFTA has to jump through EU hoops whether it likes it or not, and with no say in the matter.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

  7. So, with a federation, we would

    Keep Sterling.
    Keep the Queen.
    Stay in NATO
    Stay in the EU
    Have pretty full autonomy
    Not have to have borders with the rest of the UK.

    What’s not to like?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

    • For my English self it’s not the influence of the Westminster government as much as the influence (which is far too mild a word) of London – and even the current degree of Scottish devolution has got the North of England far more aware of how their economic interests (and health) are increasingly divergent from those of the London city-state that’s calling the shots.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

      • Yes, but London and Westminster are two halves of the same orange. The centrifugal pull of each is multiplied by the fact that they are both in the same geographical location, to the disadvantage of the rest of the UK – and the further one is from them, the greater the disadvantage. Even newsie in her recent replies to posts here seems to be acknowledging that!. Independence for Scotland will be in the best interests of the whole UK

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

    • Argyle
      Is this the proposals the Tories and labour are going to put to the electorate.
      Pity they can’t since they decided not to have a 3rd question in 2014.
      Of course one of the proposals stay in Europe cannot be guaranteed by Westminster due to referendum to get put of the EU
      What does pretty full autonomy actually mean?
      Westminster keeps the taxes and oil revenues?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

      • “Pretty full autonomy” would include control of taxes and revenue but we’d

        Keep the pound so ceding monetary control to the B of E
        Keep the Queen who will still sign all acts of parliament
        Stay in NATO and the EU and be subject to all those bodies require of us.

        As far as I can see the only difference between that and what is being proposed by SNP is that with a federation, we would retain the benefits of having no border posts?

        Ah, of course, I almost forgot, there would be no “world stage” for Mr Salmond to strut, I suppose that really wouldn’t do?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  8. Since we were refused by Westminster to join the Euro the GBP in our bank account has dropped in value by 25% against all currencies. To get back to where we were than It has to rise against all currencies by 33%. Every £100 you had saved then is now worth only £75 anywhere else in the world.
    We would have been Better Together, in the Euro.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5

      • No, I’m not having a laugh. In the middle of the jungle they laugh if I ask them to change a GBP for their local currency. They will give me premium exchange for a Euro.
        My figures are spot on, I know to my cost that the pound is worthless and unwanted outside the UK.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

          • Here are some figures.
            When the Euro was introduced it was worth $1.1713. Since then the Dollar suffered a massive drop but has recovered to around $1.37 against the Euro. It went higher but has settled around this figure.
            A Euro cost about 0.66GBP on it’s introduction. Today it costs 0.834GBP. This is actually better than it was a year ago.
            Anyone holding GBP and wanting to convert is going to pay extra plus the commission and will not get much more than their GBP total.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

          • Murdoch,

            That, in large measure, is why we are not in the same pickle as Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland, etc., whose economies are out of kilter with that of Germany who call the shots with the Euro.

            We still have control of our own economic levers which is why the economy is turning round instead of going further pear-shaped.

            Sure, it costs us a bit more for a pint when we go on holiday but it makes our exports cheaper to those using the Euro.

            Of course, it does mean that if we insist on buying European wind turbines and paying European contractors to build them, it costs us even more than before if the pound falls in value.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

          • I don’t think any of the economies you mention were ever, well in recent history at least, in “kilter” with the German economy. Apples and pears, in my view at least.
            Neither was the UK since the Tories and New Labour used our Scottish riches to destroy our industrial might and then transferred our wealth and knowledge into production in the slave markets of the far east.
            Exports and Imports work hand in hand. We need both to produce our goods, so a strong currency is always important. We export in a weak currency so we have less money to pay for the imports we need to make our goods. A rich currency is always better, especially one that is used by 340M in Europe and is pegged to the currencies of another 210M people worldwide.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

          • Our wasted “industrial might” you refer to was buillt on manufacturing, the very thing that would suffer most if the UK was currently in the Euro.

            What’s left of it is now benefiting by us not being in the Euro and of course, from Germany going head over heels into “green” energy.

            That’s why Alex Salmond wants to stay with the pound.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

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