[WSMDiscuss] In Wales, interest in independence simmers ahead of polls

Jai Sen jai.sen at cacim.net
Thu Apr 1 20:53:04 CEST 2021

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Britain in movement… ?, Wales in movement… ?, Peoples in movement…, Sovereignty in movement…

[Reading this, it’s interesting to think back a few days when a writer on WSMDiscuss questioned the seriousness of an assertion made by someone from Ecuador – that along with rise of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous consciousness on Abya Yala, the Celts in Europe are also rising…

[The recent rise of the Scottish independence movement has been impossible to miss.  But is what this article says, about Wales, also happening ?  (Or is this fake news, or just fishing news ?)  Comments, anyone, and especially from of course anyone from Wales ?  Or other parts of Britain ? :

In Wales, interest in independence simmers ahead of polls

More are warming to Welsh independence after witnessing Westminster’s management of Brexit and the COVID crisis

Chris Kelsey <https://www.aljazeera.com/author/chris-kelsey>
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/1/in-wales-fervour-grows-for-independence-from-the-uk <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/1/in-wales-fervour-grows-for-independence-from-the-uk>



Welsh flags are seen at a closed holiday park in Towyn as the spread of COVID continues [File: Carl Recine/Reuters]

Cardiff, Wales – Something is stirring in Wales.

This second-smallest of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom, with a population of three million, has for years trailed behind Scotland in its demands for independence.

UK could become ‘failed state’ without reform, former PM warns <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/1/25/uk-could-become-a-failed-state-without-reform-former-pm-warns>
UK: Is Scotland on course to leave Britain? <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/19/uk-is-scotland-on-course-to-leave-britain>
Can Scotland become independent? <https://www.aljazeera.com/program/inside-story/2020/12/26/can-scotland-become-independent>
In Northern Ireland, a ‘shift in enthusiasm’ for Irish unity <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/3/9/irish-reunification-debate-looms-large-as-ni-nears-centenary>
Now all that is changing.

A little under two years ago, in May 2019, thousands of people marched through the streets of Cardiff in support of Welsh independence. It was the first in a series of rallies and marches in towns and cities across the country over the following months.

COVID-19 put a stop to the rallies. But it has not stopped the interest in independence.

At the beginning of 2020, Yes Cymru, the non-partisan campaign group behind the rallies, had just 2,000 members. Today it has more than 18,000.

In February, one opinion poll put support for independence at 39 percent. That was an outlier, with most polls showing support closer to 25 percent. But even that is twice as high as it was six years ago.

There is no doubt that more people support independence in Wales now than at any time in recent history.

So what is behind this change in mood?

Progressively invaded and conquered by a succession of English monarchs from the 11th century onwards, Wales was more thoroughly integrated into its larger neighbour than Scotland or Ireland ever were.

Its devolved government in Cardiff still has less power than its counterpart in Edinburgh.

Once an agricultural backwater, Wales’ population boomed during the Industrial Revolution when its coal, iron and steel captured world markets. But the decline of its heavy industries has seen Wales slip to the bottom of the UK wealth table – and stay there, despite 30 years of devolution.

Now its per capita GDP is only approximately a quarter that of Ireland, and parts of Wales count as some of the poorest regions in Europe.
But it is recent events that have swelled the ranks of the independence movement.

Although a majority in Wales voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum, the chaotic handling of the UK’s departure from the EU has undermined belief in a strong and stable Westminster government, according to Roger Awan-Scully, professor at Cardiff University and chair of the Political Studies Association of the UK.

“That’s the period, 2018 to 2019, when you start to get this uptick in support for independence,” he said.

Then came COVID. With health devolved, the Welsh government was free to impose its own lockdown rules.

The pronouncements of the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford loomed larger in the country than those of Boris Johnson – often to Drakeford’s advantage.

“The handling of the pandemic has very trenchantly exposed the differences in policy choices between the governments of the UK,” Laura McAllister, professor of public policy at Cardiff  University’s Wales Governance Centre, told Al Jazeera.

“The Welsh and Scottish governments have had consistently higher approval ratings from their nations than the UK Government. It’s elevated the visibility and profile of the Welsh Government and first minister.”

Awan-Scully, referring to a scandal which saw Johnson’s top Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings accused of breaking the government’s own lockdown rules, said: “Since Barnard Castle, people have consistently said they evaluate the Welsh government’s handling much higher than the UK government’s.”

The first test of this new support for independence will come in May when the people of Wales get a chance to vote for a new Welsh Government.

The latest opinion polls indicate a three-horse race between the ruling Labour party, the Conservatives and the pro-independence Plaid Cymru, with a Labour government dependent on Plaid Cymru support seen as the most likely outcome.

Plaid Cymru’s leader Adam Price has responded to the growth in separatist feeling by announcing a dramatic shift in the party’s policy: if elected, a Plaid Cymru government would hold a referendum on independence within its first term.

Conservative ministers in London fear that if Labour returns to power in Cardiff relying on Plaid Cymru votes, it will be forced into holding an independence referendum, according to a report in The Times.

First Minister Drakeford has maintained a difficult balancing act, on the one hand describing the union as “fractured”, on the other saying that he believes in the UK and that he would not hold an independence referendum if elected, because there would not be a democratic mandate for it.

Labour’s own voters are split on the issue, with 51 percent in a recent poll saying they supported independence, despite Labour being officially a unionist party.

Sion Jobbins, chair of Yes Cymru, said this was partly due to the perceived rightward drift of Conservative governments since the Brexit vote.

“There’s a section of people on the left in Wales who feel the British state they thought they knew is different now,” he said.

“There’s also a constituency of Labour voters who feel they vote Labour here in Wales and get a Tory (Conservative) government in London.”


Jai Sen

Independent researcher, editor; Senior Fellow at the School of International Development and Globalisation Studies at the University of Ottawa

jai.sen at cacim.net <mailto:jai.sen at cacim.net> &  <mailto:jsen at uottawa.ca>jsen at uottawa.ca <mailto:jsen at uottawa.ca>
Now based in Ottawa, Canada, on unsurrendered Anishinaabe territory (+1-613-282 2900) and in New Delhi, India (+91-98189 11325)

Check out something new – including for copies of the first two books below, at a discount, and much more : The Movements of Movements <https://movementsofmovements.net/>
Jai Sen, ed, 2017 – The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us Move ?.  New Delhi : OpenWord and Oakland, CA : PM Press.  Ebook and hard copy available at PM Press <http://www.pmpress.org/>; hard copy only also at The Movements of Movements <https://movementsofmovements.net/>
Jai Sen, ed, 2018a – The Movements of Movements, Part 2 : Rethinking Our Dance.  Ebook and hard copy available at PM Press <http://www.pmpress.org/>; hard copy only also at The Movements of Movements <https://movementsofmovements.net/>
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