I've had this book in my reading pile for a little while. With the tagline 'Should Wales leave the UK?', it's written by Wales Online Welsh Affairs editor Will Hayward to scrutinise both sides of the discussion about Welsh independence.
I felt this was a decent review of the situation Wales is currently in. While Will points out that the idea that independence will help solve all of Wales's many problems is simplistic, he also strongly makes the case that the current status quo isn't going to do anything to solve those problems either. This is something I've talked about before when discussing my feelings about independence - 18 months ago when my friend Chris asked me whether I could really see a future for Wales as an independent country, I replied that I couldn't really see much of a future in the UK. This book acknowledges that things are bleak.
The problems we see in Wales - the high poverty rates, the demographic shift in society, the low quality infrastructure and the ongoing post-industrial trauma in the population's health are all covered by Will. And he pulls no punches at the lack of action from the UK government to do anything about them - inaction that has lasted for decades under whatever flavour government has been in charge.
Will doesn't have much time for the sloganeering of Yes Cymru, harshly skewering claims that Wales could get by selling water and energy. He points out that if Wales went independent without an economic plan it would be ruinous, but plans could be made and, indeed, some people are already coming up with ideas. Will believes a solution is for Wales to find its 'niche' in the world - something it would be world-leading in.
He also recognises that independence provides an opportunity to recalibrate the economy in Wales and focus on other priorities rather than 'growth'. A constitution for Wales could focus on social justice and quality of life for all the people who live here with economic policy flowing from that. It was encouraging to have some other possibilities included in a serious political work instead of discussions of the economy just being the de facto Western idea that 'wealth' is measured in money.
The flipside of the book is an examination of the current political system, which is exposed as seriously lacking. The idea that the UK can persist with an 'unwritten constitution' is deeply unsatisfactory - as is the idea of Parliamentary sovereignty, which leaves the people of the UK at the mercy of charlatans and thieves. This isn't a theoretical criticism; the corruption in our current government shows that.
So what is the solution? Will doesn't give an opinion, although he does offer a range of options, showing this isn't a binary question. The most interesting scenario he paints is accidental independence - asking what would happen if England decided to opt out of the union. That's a feasible issue if Scotland went independent and there was a nationalist swing in England that saw Wales and Northern Ireland as more trouble than they're worth.
If I had one criticism of this book, it's the author's tendency to insert himself into the narrative. As readers, we don't need to know which coffee shop he's met a politician in, or how he talked to an academic on a Zoom call. I know why authors add this colour in to their narratives - and Will doesn't do it as egregiously as some people do - but it's a distraction. There are other occasions where Will adds colour very successfully - for example, providing a short synopsis of the Aberfan disaster and how the UK government misappropriated the donations that were given to help the families of the victims who were killed.
But overall, that's a minor quibble for a book that I would recommend anyone with any level of interest in Welsh politics should consider reading.