Wales politics

Yes would 'radically' change Wales

A Yes campaigner and a girl with a union jack painted on her face Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Should people in Wales care more about the debate in Scotland?

Scotland's independence referendum is less than a month away.

You might expect great interest within Wales: will our Celtic cousins choose to remain with us inside the UK?

That isn't what the evidence suggests. Opinion polls in Wales indicate that most of us don't want Scotland to vote Yes.

But few seem to regard it as very important, nor think it would matter much for Wales if Scotland did vote for independence.

Perhaps we should care rather more. In several respects, it could matter rather a lot for Wales and Welsh politics if Scotland were to vote Yes.

A Scottish Yes would change fundamentally the nature of the state we live in.

At present Wales is one of four distinct national territories within the UK. If Scotland were to leave, that number wouldn't just shrink to three.


The UK as a whole would become even more grossly lop-sided: it would be England and rather two little bits.

It's not clear that a UK even more dominated by England would be very comfortable for Wales: as one very senior Welsh civil servant said to me a while ago, "Who wants to play Montenegro to England's Serbia?"

A Scottish Yes might also tilt the balance of UK politics in ways that many in Wales might find uncomfortable.

In recent decades Scotland and Wales have shared a tendency to vote for the Conservatives in much lower numbers than does England.

This hasn't always mattered for the political balance of power: the predominance of England means that UK general elections are normally decided by the outcome there.

But Scotland leaving the UK would make it just that little bit easier for the Conservatives to win a general election.

That increases the chances of Wales being governed from London by a party it has rejected.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The departure of Scottish MPs would further increase England's dominance at Westminster

It is also possible that a Scottish Yes might act as an example to Wales, thus changing fundamentally the nature of political debate in Wales.

At present, support for Welsh independence is rather limited - it has hovered somewhere around 10% or so for several decades.

Although independence is the long-term goal of Plaid Cymru, few in the party give the impression it is likely to happen any time soon.

But if Scotland were to leave the UK, and make a success of it, this might change the character of political debate in Wales.

Shatter consensus

In recent years, devolution within the UK has come to seem the 'settled will' of people in Wales.

All the main parties accept this - though such a consensus leaves plenty of room for them to debate precisely how much devolution we should have, and in what form.

But a Scottish Yes might shatter this political consensus, and prompt a political debate about the constitution that divided the parties as sharply as it has in Scotland.

That would re-cast the political landscape of Wales radically.

In a second article, Prof Scully will consider what impact a No vote could have on Wales.