There are a number of groups and organisations in Wales opposed to the introduction of tax devolution. True Wales has actively campaigned against the entire idea of devolution of power from Whitehall to Cardiff Bay and has gained popular support for their work. Many organisations in their position offer valid arguments against devolution; they site mistrust of lacklustre politicians, the weak leadership of the Welsh Government, cronyism and the particularly strong argument of Wales’ place, within the future of the UK.
As we are all too aware, the UK came drastically close to breaking up in 2014 with the Scottish referendum. Two years later (significantly muted) mutterings of further referendums North of the Border still exist. The economic arguments that were placed in front of the Scottish electorate have been torn apart and the SNP’s portrayal of a self-sufficient Scotland lay deep at the bottom of the North Sea, as does the price of a barrel of Brent Crude at under $40 a barrel. An industry at its peak generating 10% to the UK economy in 1983, figures now show that the oil and gas industry is in terminal decline with figures in 2014 showing that the contributions to the UK economy now stand at 2.8%.
So why is this important to Wales?
Like Scotland there is now an undercurrent of those in Wales like the group ‘Yes Cyrmu’ who believe that Wales could gain independence and survive. In Wales there is no North Sea Oil, major employers such as the steel industry are largely on their knees. Even the Welsh Government doesn’t want the powers devolved without a referendum (possibly in the hope to have the plans rejected).
Devolving tax to Cardiff Bay will not lead to a constitutional crisis but quite the opposite. Welsh public are aware that the only natural resources that could be exploited for profit is the fantastic coast and natural parks we have available and that these alone could not generate the vast sums required to operate an independent Wales. The Welsh public are also aware that they have sixty Assembly Members up for election on 5th May and there is very little to tell them apart. After all the real question being asked of the electorate which isn't being made clear at this stage is ‘who do you want to spend your £15bn of Taxpayers money on your behalf?’
Further devolution of tax raising powers will provide a stronger Wales where the electorate can make a true democratic decision in who they vote for. Will it be higher taxes and spending, lower taxes and spending or a combination? As there is no democratic accountability on taxation, constitutionally the taxpayers of Wales are in limbo. This election in May is another administrative task to offer the guise of democracy when truly Taxpayers need to be able to vote for those who not only spend their taxes but also collect their taxes.
Constitutionally, Wales will be a stronger part of the UK with tax raising powers and taxpayers in Wales will be able to participate in truly democratic elections, able to make their decision at the ballot box based on fully transparent election platforms. Engaging with the electorate and more importantly Taxpayers will ensure stability and the maintenance of our United Kingdom.