Scottish independence: Wales fears losing Scotland

Former first minister of Wales says Celts should stick together. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Former first minister of Wales says Celts should stick together. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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The former first minister of Wales, Rhodri Morgan, has claimed that his country would no longer have a sustainable position in the UK if Scotland votes for independence.

Mr Morgan has said there are “huge implications” for Wales if Scotland was no longer a member of the United Kingdom.

Writing in January’s edition of Prospect magazine, Mr Morgan claims that the influence of the “Celtic fringe” countries would be diminished within the UK once Scotland left.

Pointing out that Scottish independence would reduce the Celtic fringe population from ten million people to five million, the former Labour first minister suggested that Wales would suffer from the dominance of the Conservatives in what remained of the UK.

“Consider the political implications for the right-left balance in ‘rump UK’,” Mr Morgan wrote. “What about the ability of Wales and Northern Ireland to get their voices heard within that rump country – would it be sustainable?”

Mr Morgan said Wales would suffer more than Northern Ireland, which was less likely to be ignored because of American interest and the legacy of the Troubles.

He looked at the populations of the nations making up the UK. He pointed out that England’s population of 53.5 million represented 83 per cent of the UK’s 64 million.

In the event of Scottish independence and the removal of its five million population from the UK, England’s 53.5 million population would represent 92 per cent of a 59 million total.

“How would the Celts make their voices heard under those conditions?” he questioned.

In his article, Mr Morgan argued there was a need to “percolate” a “Welsh plea into the minds of the Scottish electorate”.

“A plea that says ‘if you leave the UK, Wales becomes the tail which can never ever wag the English dog’. We do have a real constitutional interest in the Scottish referendum vote. All the issues I have listed show that we might not have a sustainable position in the rump-UK.

“In one of my many conversations with Alex Salmond about the position of the Celtic countries within the UK, I once upset him mightily by referring to the UK as comprising an ‘elephant and three fleas’. He accused me of a form of Celtic self-loathing. I told him that you had to ‘clock’ the enormous disparity between England and the rest. And I thought then, as I still think, that we fleas ought to stick together.” Mr Morgan’s intervention in the independence debate follows a high-profile contribution from his successor as first minister Carwyn Jones. Last month, Mr Jones expressed doubts that Mr Salmond’s plans for a currency union would work from a Welsh perspective and suggested that England, Wales and Northern Ireland would have a veto over the ­arrangement.

Mr Morgan’s argument chimed with an essay written by the shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander in which he argued that a “No” vote would show solidarity with the disadvantaged elsewhere in the UK.

Last night, a Better Together spokesman said Mr Morgan’s piece “reminds us that we are part of a family of nations in the UK. The four countries of the UK have a proud shared history of working together in good times and bad. Why would we want to turn our back on this?”

A spokesman for Mr Salmond said: “Rhodri Morgan’s comments helpfully illuminate the stark choice facing Scotland next year – because it is a Welsh government report which all of the Westminster parties are now using to justify a bid to drastically slash Scotland’s budget in the event of a No vote.”