Gerald Holtham, one of Wales's most prominent economists, has done the math: Total government spending for Wales is 30 billion pounds a year, or about $50 billion, and tax receipts come to 17 billion pounds. "We're talking about a gap a quarter the size of the economy," he said.
Nationalists retort that Wales can escape poverty only if it takes charge of its own destiny. "No nation has ever ruled another well," said Mr. Price, a former lawmaker who set up a technology company in Wales. "We are poor because we are not independent, rather than the other way round."
But even he conceded that the time for Welsh independence has not come. First, he said, "We have to learn to be a nation again."
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Unlike Scotland, whose Parliament voted to join England three centuries ago, Wales was conquered in 1282. The Scots kept their own legal system, schools, universities, church and, with it all, a strong civic identity distinct from England's. Welsh institutions were swallowed whole; the Welsh dragon, which flutters proudly and ubiquitously on the high street in Caernarfon, is nowhere to be seen in the Union Jack.
"We were England's first colony," said Eirian James, owner of Palas Print, a local bookstore with mainly Welsh-language fare. Every time she visits relatives in southern Wales, she has to take a train through England. To this day, most transport links run from west to east, toward England, rather than along Wales's north-south axis.
The Welsh tourism board proudly promotes the fact that there are more castles per square mile in Wales than anywhere else. For locals, those castles are another reminder of early occupation.
Caernarfon Castle, up the street from Palas Print, was built by Edward I of England who killed Llewellyn, the last native prince of Wales, and declared his own firstborn son the Prince of Wales. That tradition still grates with some Welsh people. When Prince Charles was invested in Caernarfon Castle in 1969, militants tried to blow up his train. The local poet Gerallt Lloyd Owen recorded both events in popular poems. He died this summer, and donations made in his memory are going to Scotland's Yes campaign.
Poetry may not be the political weapon of choice elsewhere, but in Wales, home to the Eisteddfod, a sort of cultural Olympiad whose history can be traced to 1176, national grievances often find their way into verse.
As Jerry Hunter, a professor at Bangor University, said, "Where else have you got thousands of people crowding into a pavilion watching the results of a poetry contest?"
When the Welsh-speaking village Capel Celyn was flooded in 1965 to create a water reservoir for Liverpool, England, despite unanimous opposition from Welsh lawmakers, it spawned songs and graffiti art and gave Plaid Cymru its first significant boost.