This is a soul-searching time in the United Kingdom — or “Disunited Kingdom,” as headline writers like to call it — with Scotland recently announcing a referendum in 2014 on breaking free from the U.K., which consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Carwyn Jones, the first minister in Wales, which has had its own legislative assembly since 1999, said in an interview that if Scotland left the union, “safeguards have to be put in place to protect the smaller nations.” England could become too dominant, he said.
“There are big states in the U.S., but you don’t have one state that’s overwhelmingly bigger than the rest put together,” said Jones, referring to England, which has a population exceeding 50 million.
To help put all the nations on a more equal footing, Jones has proposed a radical shake-up to Britain’s upper house, calling for a “U.S.-style senate” with equal representation from each of the U.K.’s nations.
While the Welsh aren’t clamoring to leave the U.K. — a recent poll found only 7 percent of Welsh voters supported independence — there is an appetite for more governing powers, particularly in the area of taxation.
“We have powers of legislation that the U.K. parliament doesn’t interfere with, but we can’t raise money,” said Jones, who was in D.C. on Wednesday promoting Wales as a business destination. “This must seem odd to U.S. readers.”