Wales’ New Year resolution must be to take control of its own destiny

Ifan Morgan Jones

Wales as a modern nation was forged in the fires of the industrial revolution and that experience has shaped our national character to the present day.

In an environment where people were a resource to be crunched up like the coal carted down from the valleys we learned to be stoic about our fate and battle on in the face of adversity.

Endurance is the primary Welsh trait. We endure the weather, we endure our economic woes, we endure whatever Westminster decides is ‘best’ for us. ‘Yma o hyd’ (we’re still here!) is the rallying cry.

Wales is most associated with sheep, but is in fact most alike that New World animal – the Armadillo. Able to curl up but not particularly adept at fighting back!

It’s telling that the word ‘shield’ comes up often in the discourse surrounding our National Assembly.

The Labour Party’s motto at the last Assembly Elections was that they were Wales’ shield against the Tory government in Westminster.

This conjures up the image of a country desperate to defend herself against an abusive spouse it can’t bring itself to leave.

This week the Bevan Foundation has predicted that this battering will continue in 2018. The population will age, living standards will stagnate, austerity will continue, and the NHS will struggle.

Whether you’re pro- or anti-Brexit, 2018 will also be the year when this change, the biggest in a generation, will create all kinds of challenges for Wales’ economy that will need to be navigated.

Change

But what if we decided to make a new year resolution as a nation? What if we decided that just enduring the economic waves crashing over us was no longer enough?

You must travel over 1000 miles to find a poorer country than Wales. But we’re surrounded by other small countries, such as the Republic of Ireland and Iceland, which have bounced back from the global recession are currently enjoying great economic growth.

What’s their secret? They can’t control the global economy – no one can – but they can control their own economies. They’re nimble enough to be able to adapt to whatever is thrown at them.

They can set their own path through the economic tempest, rather than bobbing around without a paddle hoping not to capsize.

Compare that to Wales, where parts of our country are literally trying to come to terms with an economic shift that happened 100 years ago.

The strategy so far has been to look to Westminster to solve our problems. But they have shown little appetite for doing anything to fix Britain’s lopsided economy, investing more and more in the goose that lays the golden eggs – London – at the expense of the rest of the UK.

Wales will never be economically prosperous until we take responsibility for our own future, and don’t depend for guidance on a Westminster government which has little interest in us.

In 2018, we need to change direction as a country. We need a new year’s resolution, which is to take control of our own destiny, and have an ambition beyond just surviving the next economic cataclysm.

Enduring is no longer enough. 2018 is the year for ambition and confidence.

The same goes for Nation.Cymru. 2017 was a successful launch year. Between the end of May and the New Year, 580,000 visitors came to the site.

But this year we must build on that and realise the potential for a Welsh media by the people of Wales, for the people of Wales, and its benefit for our country.

A strong, prosperous, ambitious Wales will be impossible until we also have a strong, thriving public sphere where we can have a proper discussion about the country’s future.

Wales is a small country. That tends to be stated as a negative, but it is, in fact, a positive. It means that any problems we have as a nation are surmountable.

It means that every one of us can make a difference. That includes you. If not now, when? If not us… who?

Let’s get cracking!

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