The independence commission began work immediately following the UK general election in December 2019. It was tasked by Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price with producing recommendations on ways a Plaid Cymru Government should prepare for holding a referendum on independence.
With its own Senedd and legislative powers, Wales is already on a journey to independence. This report charts the next steps and:
Says an independent Wales should seek membership of the European Union, with a possible provisional step being membership of the European Free Trade Area.
Recommends that Wales explores a confederal relationship with England and Scotland.
Proposes improvements to the operation of the Welsh Government and civil service.
Points the way to drawing up a Welsh Constitution and sets out a framework for a Self-Determination Bill to take the independence process forward.
A statutory National Commission should provide the people of Wales with a clear understanding of the option for their political future – including through Citizens’ Assemblies and an initial referendum to test a range of constitutional options.
The Report - Executive Summary
- Wales, with its own Senedd and powers, is already on a journey towards independence. Completing the process will involve agreeing a sovereign constitution. This should be achieved through a series of clear, legal steps, delivered by public servants, including the judiciary, not only within Wales but in other jurisdictions. Sustainability and the well-being of future generations are core Welsh values that should be central to the constitution of an independent Wales.
- Wales must have a separate Welsh jurisdiction. Independence is not a prerequisite for this, but the general reservation to Westminster of powers relating to the single jurisdiction needs to be removed. The recommendations of the Commission on Justice for Wales should be implemented by a Plaid Cymru Government.
- The people of Wales are central to the independence process and they need to have a clear understanding of the options available for their political future. Ahead of a referendum on independence a statutory National Commission and associated Citizens Assemblies should be established to ensure maximum awareness, participation, and involvement.
- The National Commission should test the views of the people of Wales in an initial exploratory referendum, setting out constitutional options. The outcome should be used to persuade the UK Westminster Government to agree to a binary referendum on the status quo versus the preferred choice expressed in the first referendum.
- The National Commission will draft a Welsh Constitution in consultation with the widest possible representation of the people of Wales, being mindful of diversity and inclusion, through the Citizens’ Assemblies.
- We are firmly of the view that the long-term destiny of an independent Wales should be as a full member of the European Union. Given the Brexit vote in 2016, and its aftermath, there is no immediate prospect of that. However, we have made recommendations on how Wales should forge closer relations with the European Union, both in the run-up to achieving independence and afterwards.
- An independent Wales will face practical challenges to becoming a member of the EU if England remains outside, but these can be overcome. The National Commission should examine the potential for an independent Wales, separately from England, joining the European Free Trade Area (Efta), which confers membership of the EU Single Market. As a member of Efta an independent Wales would be in a position, in its own right, to negotiate a free-trade agreement with England.
- Regardless of membership, a Plaid Cymru Government should establish a special relationship with the EU. A first priority will be to seek ways of continuing to participate in the EU Erasmus and Horizon programmes, setting out clearly to the people of Wales why this is essential.
- Wales and Scotland have been in a relationship with England for centuries. We explore a range of options for a radically changed relationship between the three nations, rather than complete separation. Our proposed Statutory National Commission should conduct discussions with the Scottish Government to address the challenges to achieving a consensus on future relations and structures, including the possibility of a confederal relationship, such as explored in the Benelux and League of the Isles models in this report.
- The Welsh economy has had chronic structural weaknesses imposed upon it for a long time and they are challenging. In this report we explain that Wales has failed to make economic progress not because the country is too small or too poor, but because it is trapped within an economy overwhelmingly shaped in the interests of the City of London. This flawed model has been proven not to deliver prosperity to Wales and offers no expectation of doing so in the future. An independent Wales would be free to change this. It would no longer be a region subordinated to the interests of London and the south east of England or be subject to the fiscal policies determined by the UK Government.
- There are lessons to be learned from Ireland, formerly one of the most peripheral and poorest parts of the UK. It is now a confident, self-assured independent nation, one of the richest parts of these Isles, with a seat at the United Nations
- New agencies should be established to promote small business growth, medium size business development, inward investment, productivity, and export activity. The focus of inward investment should be on businesses capable of offering high quality jobs, in technology, health and sophisticated consumer-facing products. Contact should be deepened with alumni of Welsh universities based overseas. In the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis greater emphasis on local production and procurement should also be given.
- An incoming Government should review the entire Welsh higher education sector to ensure that meeting the needs of the Welsh economy and society is its priority. It should set in motion measures to encourage more Welsh students stay in Wales for their qualifications and their subsequent careers and that those going elsewhere are encouraged to return.
- There should be more collective and cohesive decision-making within the Welsh Cabinet over the setting of the budget and cross-departmental working. A strategic delivery plan for a Programme of Government, with an agreed annual timetable and targets across the five-year term, should be put in place. The Finance Department should take on a greater Treasury role and, working closely with the First Minister’s Office, deliver greater co-ordination of policy delivery according to targets across the whole of the Welsh Government.
- The role of the Welsh civil service should be re-examined, leading to a separation of economic policymaking and implementation. Welsh Government should develop proposals and a timetable for the creation of a Public Service for Wales, with a shared culture, grades and pay scales across all public sector organisations, including the Welsh Government’s civil service. To this end, the reservation to Westminster of powers relating to the civil service needs to be removed.
Read the full report below or click here to download it.