Joining the conversation is ...

  • 15 October 2012
  • From the section Wales
  • comments

"Whatever happens in 2014, the constitutional status quo is unsustainable."

It's not the first time by any means that Carwyn Jones has looked to big events in Scotland and spelled out that come the referendum, whatever the answer, the questions and implications for Wales will be huge. Scotland is about to determine its own future. Wales will watch, knowing that whatever Scotland decides, the impact on where the UK goes from here, Wales included, will be profound.

So there it is again from Carwyn Jones, a bid to involve Wales in the conversation happening between London and Edinburgh, a warning that the time to start working on answers and solutions is now, before the referendum, not in the aftermath of a bruising campaign. As I reported last week, David Cameron is up for the debate. But the time to have it, he says, is not now. The time to have it is if Scotland votes no to independence.

The First Minister of Wales knows what he wants to happen in 2014. He wants the people of Scotland to do just that - vote no. For what it's worth, he's confident they will. Why? Because "we are stronger together than we would ever be apart". That's what he thinks and that's what he thinks voters in Scotland will conclude as well. The First Minister of Scotland and his team will spend the next two years persuading them otherwise.

So what are the questions that Carwyn Jones wants asked?

The 'English elephant' as Rhodri Morgan had it already makes up 85% of the UK. Without the Scottish 'flea' make that 91%. How does Wales fare then? Is its voice enhanced, or does it become fainter? Does it have more influence, or less? With Scotland gone, does it get a larger share of the money, or less. What's the new deal?

And here's a key question: how does England respond? Does it run shy of devolution and its implications? Does it become more, or less, careful?

What if Scotland votes no? Does the political architecture of the UK still change fundamentally? It may be less clear cut but does it, perhaps, end up looking like a messy amalgam of nations and cities that strike their own deals over 'more' devolution? What happens to fiscal powers? What happens to Wales in this scenario? The one answer that makes no sense, says Carwyn Jones, is nothing:

"I would regret enormously any decision by the Scots to opt for independence. However, as I have made clear, a major change in Scotland's relationship with the rest of Britain - or its separation from the rest of the UK - would require a radical reconsideration of Wales' constitutional relationship within a re-defined United Kingdom ...

"So, rather than simply allow events in Scotland to unfold, and to react passively to whatever happens when it happens, I believe that political and civil society across the UK should be talking now about what kind of UK we want to see".

And here comes that line: "Whatever happens in 2014, the constitutional status quo is unsustainable."

Discuss.