The Silk Road
During the next two years, there will be a referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent country.
The outcome of that referendum will either lead to a continuation of the United Kingdom with the possibility of further constitutional change in future, or to an independent Scotland and, presumably, a successor state made up of the remaining three UK nations – England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Scotland’s decision is a matter for the people of Scotland, but it is one which must be made in full knowledge of the outcome’s consequences.
The recently published Electoral Commission guidance advises that “the UK and Scottish Governments should clarify what process will follow the referendum, for either outcome, so that people have that information before they vote.”
It is only common sense that discussions are held in advance of the referendum so that everybody has a better understanding of what will happen in the event of either a Yes or No vote in Scotland.
Given the importance placed upon the Electoral Commission’s guidance by the ‘No’ campaign prior to their publication, it is unthinkable that these pre-referendum talks will not take place. They will presumably take place between the Scottish and UK Governments.
This creates a problem for Wales.
We are a nation. We have our own Senedd and Welsh Government. We have substantial powers over health, education, rural affairs, transport, our language and in many other fields – although we remain deficient in others such as crime and justice, energy and the media, and being accountable for the money spent on our behalf.
Yet, in all likelihood, we will be shut out of discussions about how a post-referendum successor state will look.
How, then, will all of this affect Wales.
The first thing is that we cannot wait until the day after the referendum to decide how a UK sans Scotland will look.
Understandably there is growing concern at all levels about the political impact.
Without Scottish representation in the House of Commons there is the likelihood of a permanent Conservative government in London.
Wales has not voted for a Conservative government since the introduction of the universal electoral franchise.
People have have consistently opposed the privatisation of our health services, our education and our prisons as well as the cuts to our social security.
Wales therefore needs protection from the worst effects of a Conservative-led rump UK who have done little more than damage for us in the past.
Although I am the leader of a nationalist party who believe that Wales should be an independent country, I recognise that this will not come about as an immediate effect of a Yes vote in Scotland.
The independence movement in Wales must earn the right to put that question to the people of Wales as the independence movement in Scotland has done.
That is something which will take place in the fullness of time with our aspiration to be an independent country.
In the meantime, it is incumbent we take greater control of our own affairs so that we can better influence and improve our economy with the aim of raising the standard of living of our people.
Devolution, of course, is a process, not an event, and once again Welsh devolution is developing its own course.
As I write, the Commission for Devolution in Wales, more popularly known as the Silk Commision, is collecting evidence for its second report.
The Commission is covering similar territory to the Calman Commission, and it has already published a report recommending greater financial powers for Wales at the end of last year.
The second report, covering non-financial aspects such as crime and justice, energy and so forth is due for publication in Spring next year, ahead of the Scotland referendum.
Silk part one has already set in place a timetable for the introduction of job-creating financial powers for Wales which will incentivise the Welsh Government to improve the economy.
However, Silk was set up on the presumption of the status quo in Scotland. That timetable must be revised in the event of a Scotland Yes vote, given that there will have been such a big change in political dynamics.
In short, the UK Government must open up pre-referendum talks with the Scottish Government in order to agree what will happen after the referendum, whichever outcome is successful.
Plaid Cymru also wants to see the UK Government engaging in discussions with the people and political parties in Wales and Northern Ireland about what will happen if Scotland votes Yes.
We in Wales are not just watchers but participants in our own constitutional future. We cannot have our future dictated by the UK Government. A full, frank, and, most importantly, two-way conversation must be held about how we can all work together for our mutual benefit and the best way of achieving this.
Westminster Governments of various hues over the years have refused to accept the increasing likelihood of the break-up of the United Kingdom. Desperate to cling on to a political system that has long reached its use-by date. The unionist parties should have learnt by now that ignoring the issue will not make it or us go away.