The Collective voice for independence is gaining ground, as Westminster starts to pay attention.
As Scotland and Northern Ireland edge closer to independence from the United Kingdom, you may find yourself pondering the fate of the fourth member of the union; Wales.
An increase in membership of pro-independence organisation, YesCymru, from 2000 in February 2020 to 17,500 in March 2021 suggests that the desire for an independent Wales is taking hold in the country of 3.1 million people.
Polling figures don’t necessarily suggest that this increased political fervour for independence is widespread. A YouGov poll shows that support for leaving the centuries-old union has remained at a steady 25%.
Nevertheless, the polls do reveal an increased apathy towards Westminster. In 2014, 70% of those asked said they wouldn’t vote for a ‘Wexit’, but this now stands at only 50%. The indifference regarding the union has even spread to the political elite at the National Assembly in Cardiff.
Plaid Cymru are arguably the most powerful supporters for a referendum on independence, as they hold 10 of the 60 seats at the Welsh Parliament and three of the 40 Welsh seats in the UK parliament. Adam Price, the leader of the party, has promised a vote on the matter if they win the Senedd elections in May.
In the Welsh Labour Party, which has won every domestic election in the country for over a hundred years, there are signs that the organisation could become divided over the issue. A group called ‘Labour for IndyWales’ was relaunched on Monday and says that it wants to break away from the UK to make Wales a “democratic socialist country”, something which can not be achieved at the moment due to the Conservative party’s “hegemonic” control of the UK parliament.
Whilst the leadership of the Labour party in Wales remain staunch unionists, they have made the historic decision to select pro-independence candidates to contest seats in the Senedd election in the constituency of Ceredigion later in the year. This move could be interpreted as Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales and the leader of Welsh Labour, softening his opinion on independence or it could be a calculated strategic move to appease dissenting voices within the ranks (Labour only received 6.5% of the vote in Ceredigion in 2016 and are not viable contenders). Regardless of Drakeford’s intentions, it is certainly a sign that the movement is threatening the status quo.
Why are people in Wales becoming disillusioned by Westminster? Brexit has been cited by many sources as a primary cause for growing nationalistic attitudes (It was following the Brexit vote that opposition to independence plummeted).
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By Matthew Parkes: Political Columnist.
Why are people in Wales becoming disillusioned by Westminster?
However, this is difficult to reconcile with the fact that the majority of Wales voted to leave the EU. Or is it?
The sentiment surrounding the Leave campaign was centred around people’s perception of distance from many of the major decisions that were made about their lives. Whilst this was largely focused on ‘taking back control’ from the bureaucracy in Brussels, many of the people who voted to leave would have felt similar animosity towards civil servants and politicians in Westminster and Whitehall.
YesCymru’s ‘Independence in Your Pocket’, which outlines their argument for an independent Wales, shares similar points of view to prominent Brexiteers.
They point out that they get minimal representation in the UK parliament and “no matter how Wales votes, we get the Westminster government that England wants.” In regaining their sovereignty, they hope to improve the future of the country, something which they feel has been neglected by London in favour of matters in England, by “taking control of our own destiny”.
The pandemic may have hastened the demand for independence too. Whilst Mark Drakeford has been criticised throughout the pandemic, the fact that they have been able to control their own response has made many question what they gain from the union.
For now, the push for independence to the west of Offa’s Dyke is still in its infancy and far behind the likes of Scotland. However, there are concrete signs that the seeds of a strong separatist movement have been planted and, like many campaigns for self-determination, is unlikely to disappear until it has been achieved.
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