Beware a Labour Party That THROWSWALES to the Wolves; If Labour Really Does Stand Up for Wales and for a Sharing United Kingdom, Then It Must Act on Its Word, Writes Richard Wyn Jones of the Wales Governance Centre

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), March 28, 2014 | Go to article overview

Beware a Labour Party That THROWSWALES to the Wolves; If Labour Really Does Stand Up for Wales and for a Sharing United Kingdom, Then It Must Act on Its Word, Writes Richard Wyn Jones of the Wales Governance Centre


Byline: Richard Wyn

WITH the post-Thatcher Scottish Conservative Party still a pale shadow of its former self, and with the Scottish Liberal Democrats facing existential crisis as a result of their coalition dalliance with the toxic Tories, Unionist hopes rest squarely on the Labour Party.

Labour is the only remaining political party with substantial support and elected representation across Britain. So anyone with any interest in the future of the state we inhabit, and Wales' place within it, should take time to read the report of the Scottish Labour Party's Devolution Commission, Powers for a Purpose: Strengthening Accountability and Empowering People. Published exactly six months before the independence referendum (and after intensive and apparently fractious internal debate), Powers for a Purpose sets out a vision for the future of Scotland and the UK if Scotland votes No on September 18.

The report purports to base its recommendations on a clear and principled vision of the purpose of the United Kingdom: "The UK is a 'sharing union', with economic, social, and political aspects, in which risks and rewards are collectively pooled... The justification of each of these parts of the union is to a certain extent instrumental - what is in the interests of Scotland. However it is also principled - what is right for Scotland and the whole UK. It is also... founded on a moral purpose... In this union, we pool and share resources to ensure... those in need have equal economic, social and political rights throughout the entire UK. This is an idea - founded on solidarity, community and fairness - that is much greater than any notion of creating an independent state."

Solidarity; community; fairness: sharing resources in order to support the otherwise weak and disadvantaged. Stirring stuff. But also, unfortunately, hypocritical cant.

From a Welsh perspective, the detail of what Labour is promising in order to persuade Scotland to stay in the Union is nothing short of disastrous'. Despite the fine rhetoric about the "moral purpose" of the Union, Scottish Labour seem to have no compunction about throwing Wales, one of the poorest parts of the Union, under the bus to shore up their own position.

Scotland is one of the most prosperous parts of the United Kingdom. Alhough clearly home to pockets of deep deprivation, Scotland is nonetheless one of the few parts of the Union - London is the other, of course - to have proven economically resilient in the face of recession and austerity.

For Wales it is, sadly, a very different story. Yet despite this, the Barnett formula - used to calculate funding for the Scottish and Welsh Governments - operates in a way that ensures per capita levels of public spending is far higher for Scotland than for Wales. Broadly speaking, if funding were allocated on the basis of need - surely a sound social democratic principle - then Scotland is over-funded to the tune of some PS4bn a year; Wales is under-funded by some PS300m.

Since the publication of the findings of the Holtham Commission in 2009, Welsh politicans have united to call for reform of the Barnett formula. …

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