Among common canards used to thwart peaceful independence movements is the idea that the entity attempting to go its own way is too small, too poor, has too few people, etc.
These were arguments employed by those who opposed Scotland’s independence referendum in 2014, and who resist sovereignty movements in Catalonia and Corsica, among other regions of the world where a segment of the population is pondering an autonomous path.
But the blog Borthlas, focusing on the idea of Welsh independence from the UK – said by some to be impossible because Wales is “too poor” – raises interesting points:
Borthlas turns to a comparison of national per-capita GDP as a means to judge a region’s muscle, admitting that this is not an exact science because per-capita GDP tells nothing about the relative cost of living in a country.
“The population of a country with a low GDP per capita and a low cost of living might actually feel better off than the people of another country where both figures are higher,” the blog explains. “It also tells us nothing about the way wealth is shared out in a country – so the population of a country with a low GDP per capita but where the wealth is evenly shared might feel better off than the people of a country with a high GDP per head and huge inequality.”
But despite those caveats, per-capita GDP is still a good starting point to assess where would Wales fit were it an independent state, Borthlas writes.
- According to International Monetary Fund figures, Wales would place 24th in the world in per-capita GDP were it independent of the UK, out of more than 170 countries;
- The World Bank puts Wales at 27th, ahead of more than 150 other nations; and
- The United Nations ranks Wales 31st place, with more than 160-odd countries beneath it.
Each organization has per-capita GDP figures for a different number of countries; currently there is something like 195 recognized independent nations.
Wales fares relatively well among European Union nations, as well, ranking in the top half, according to Borthlas.
The real issue why it’s difficult for regions such as Wales, Scotland and Catalonia to gain traction when it comes to independence is multi-fold.
First, these areas are often compared economically to the countries of which they are a part. Wales and Scotland aren’t going to stack up very well against the UK as whole, but then again, neither would England proper. But if there’s a place in the world for the likes of Andorra, Belize, Equatorial Guinea and Liechtenstein, entities such as an independent Wales, Scotland and Catalonia would not only have little problem surviving, but would almost certainly thrive.
Next, traditionalists, and certainly hidebound imperialists, are almost always reluctant to give up that which they have spent centuries holding reign over, for psychological and political reasons.
Finally, the loss of any portion of a nation to independence means a loss of money, one way or the other. Some may point to a region such as Wales and say that it receives significant sums from the UK Treasury. However, Wales is denied sovereign control over its natural resources, including water, mineral and energy exports.
Ultimately, the bottom line tends to be the bottom line these days when it comes to adhering to the concept of self-determination.