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Arguments against Welsh independence are like those in an ‘abusive relationship’ says Michael Sheen

29 Dec 2020 5 minutes Read
Michael Sheen. Picture by iDominick (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The arguments against Welsh independence show that Wales is in an “abusive relationship” according to Michael Sheen.

The Welsh Hollywood actor made the comments in an interview on Guardian columnist Owen Jones’ Youtube channel after he was asked what he thought was driving the rise huge in support for independence and whether it is something he would support.

Sheen also said that he believes quite a lot of Labour politicians secretly support Welsh independence but can’t say it publicly because they have to follow the party line.

In the interview, the actor described what he called a “political awakening” following working on a project in Neath Port Talbot called “The Passion”, which ultimately brought him back home.

He talks about local services being cut, including grief counselling, and this had caused him to ask questions about why these things were happening.

 

‘Unhealthy’ 

On the subject of Welsh independence, he said: “When you hear the arguments, and this is something I’ve become very aware of, is as talk of independence and the YesCymru movement has grown, the people who push back against it, all the arguments of why Wales couldn’t be independent, shouldn’t be independent, all sound, if you imagined it in terms of a relationship between people, you’d say that is an abusive relationship.

“No, you can’t leave because if you leave you wouldn’t be able to survive on your own. You aren’t strong enough or clever enough, or resourceful enough to be able to survive outside this relationship.

“If a man was saying that about a woman, his wife, you’d say that is an unhealthy relationship, regardless of if there’s any truth in that right now. If there is any truth in that it’s because of how unhealthy that relationship is.

“If the argument against Wales being independent, or any country being independent, from its sort of dominant overlord, if the arguments are all based on that kind of unhealthy relationship then there’s something wrong there.

“Regardless of whether that country should be independent or not, that relationship needs fundamentally changing. I would want to see a Wales that has a free choice.

“All the arguments that say why Wales can’t be independent are abusive. That is an unhealthy relationship.

“That relationship needs fundamental change. Wales needs a free choice as to whether staying as part of a union, or at least staying as part of the union in its present form, or to not, or to change that.

“So, in some ways regardless of the arguments around whether Wales should be independent or not, what those arguments seem to put into relief is how unhealthy that relationship is for Wales at the moment, and how fundamentally that needs to change.”

‘Existential’

He added: “I’ve come quite late to the game when it comes to all kinds of things around politics and my understanding of this stuff has grown massively in the last few years.

“I think I’m at the very foothills of an understanding of how Welsh history and what has gone on in the past here, and the relationship with England, and where Wales sits in the context of the United Kingdom and all that stuff, how that affects what’s happening now.

“There was a ‘deal’ that was made for Wales, to become part of Britain and to share in the rewards of Empire. That deal that was struck, you start to go ‘is that a good deal? Are we benefiting from that deal?'”

He also described Welsh and Scottish independence being an “existential threat” to the UK Labour Party.

“I think there’s probably quite a lot of Welsh Labour politicians who if you were to put party aside and just think about country, would be for welsh independence but can’t say that.”

Owen Jones, who said that he has a family member who is a councillor for Plaid Cymru, said that he thought that a lot of people in Wales and in Scotland felt “taken for granted” by Labour.

The interview also addressed the media deficit in the UK and in Wales.

Sheen said: “This is an issue generally for smaller communities, or working-class communities, and particularly in Wales.

“I’m obviously more sensitive to it in Wales, but the idea of us having our own media platforms to tell our stories and to share with each other in Wales, that’s been very difficult. We get our news from England a lot of the time.

“Reporting on what’s going on in Wales often happens either from outside of Wales or certainly not from the areas that it’s reporting on. The sorts of voices you hear in the news tend to be higher status voices.”

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