I haven’t been particularly secretive about the various events I’ve attended recently. One such event saw me tread the ancient path between the villages of Hope and Caergwrle in Flintshire, North East Wales, to celebrate the liberation of the inhabitants at the time from Henry IV’s racist laws. At the event’s final destination, Castell Caergwrle, I spoke of Owain Glyndŵr and similar folk who have advocated freedom for their peoples and their communities throughout history.
Even more recently, I went to watch a film by Nick Stradling called Y Wal Goch / The Red Wall in Wrecsam’s Saith Seren. There we watched the intoxicated pandemonium of Wales’ first ever win in a European competition over Slovakia in Bordeaux – a game I had the honour of attending. And although my peculiar journey to France and back meant I missed being a part of Nick’s film, the obvious jubilation on the faces of Welsh supporters brought back all my wonderful memories of that beautiful day.
After the film, Nick stayed behind to talk to me about his involvement in the YesCymru campaign. YesCymru, much like YesScotland, was established a few years ago with the aim of sharing the benefits to an independent Wales. Also akin to their Scottish cousins, the group bears no allegiance to a particular political party – nor does it wish to – but it simply wishes to hold discussions with anyone lucky enough to call Wales their home about their views on an independent Wales.
However it’s no secret that, despite the wonderful work done by those devoted to the YesCymru cause, Wales lags behind Scotland in the quest for independence. There are many obvious reasons for these differences such as Scotland’s retention of their own government despite their union with England and the fact that Wales has been nothing short of bullied by their English overlords for considerably longer than the Scots. Even in the world of politics, the Scots have always been more ‘awake’ and alive to how its people are treated – both before and during their years as part of the United Kingdom.
A BBC poll of 1,000 pre-chosen voters from around 15 years ago claimed that a mere 3% of Welsh residents would like to see Welsh independence. A more recent (and more independent poll) has shown that the decision to leave the EU has had a hugely positive effect on this percentage. When asked whether the possibility of staying in the EU would effect their decision to see an independent Wales, some 28% of Welsh residents would support independence.
Since the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership with our friends on the continent was voted to be ended, the swathes of uncertainty have left many on both sides of the debate dazed and confused. It is definitely no secret that the decision to leave has cast doubt and insecurity across these islands as well as further afield onto the European continent and beyond. It is for this reason that I fully understand and accept that the huge constitutional changes (such as the one that would see Wales become an independent nation) would be hard work for all.
But whether the majority of the Welsh public would still prefer to maintain the 16th century, archaic union with England (and her conquered territories) or they awake to the benefits of an independent nation is, in my view, slowly becoming irrelevant.
There is nothing to say, should Scotland win its independence and should Ireland unite as one once again, that England itself may decide to go it alone and strike its own future in the modern world (with or without Cornwall – but that’s another story). It is with honesty, yet with a heavy heart, that I am slowly coming to terms that it may not be a turn in the opinions of the Welsh public that grants Wales its freedom…. we may simply be pushed through the door. As we have seen for centuries, the political decisions of England always mirror the eventual political path of Westminster and, ultimately, the United Kingdom.
So we either leave ourselves or we are left….
In either case I believe it is now imperative that the people of this nation, be they supporters of Welsh independence or otherwise, discuss and learn about what a free Wales may look like. I guess it’s simply a beautiful side effect that with discussion, more and more people would definitely warm to the potential that an independent Wales promises.
With the confusion left by the shock, sucker-punch decision to leave the EU, can we, as people of Wales, honestly afford to not at least be prepared for every eventuality? We must wake to the notion that, at any given point, Wales could indeed be finding itself in the position where it must stand on its own feet.
When I begin debates with people, one issue is politics. Some people in Wales are almost fearfully glued to the Labour Party – a party which has always said it supports the United Kingdom. Of course they do…. they’re an English party. But my response to them is always the same.
Just like an independent Scotland does not have to be led by the SNP (though I do believe that is the best option), an independent Wales isn’t constitutionally required to be led by Plaid Cymru (even though I also believe that to be the best option). In truth, political parties and their squabbles needn’t be a part of many a discussion on Wales’ future. What must be discussed is the ability to forge our own rules – designed and tailored to the diverse needs of the people who live here…. not by Westminster elites who probably only think of the massive sea-mammals when someone mentions the name of our country.
If the Labour Party, for example, chooses to stand in Wales after independence, there’s no reason why people cannot still vote for them. At least then we could all be certain that their policies would directly be of and for the people of Wales alone!
So talk. Read. Spread the word. Even if your opinions advocate the maintenance of Wales within this decrepit union, tell someone. Debate with them…. before it’s too late.
Byddwch yn barod / Be ready