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‘Idea of independence is taking off’, says former Boris Johnson comms director

24 Jan 2021 3 minute read
The independence march in Merthyr Tydfil on 7 September. Pictures by Lluniau Lleucu

The “idea of independence is taking off” according to Boris Johnson’s former communications director.

Guto Harri, who worked for the UK Prime Minister while he was mayor of London, argues in The Sunday Times that the independence movement has moved beyond the “linguistic and cultural ambitions of intellectuals”.

Mr Harri pointed to recruits to the independence cause from outside the Welsh-speaking heartlands, such as former Welsh international goalie, Neville Southall, singer Charlotte Church, and David Buttress, the former chief executive of Just Eat who built a £5bn company.

He said that overall Wales is currently supportive of the union but that there is a “dissatisfaction” with the status quo, and that Brexit had contributed to this.

A recent YouGov opinion poll suggested that 31 per cent of Welsh voters want an independence referendum in the next five years, put those against on 47 per cent, and those who don’t know on 22 per cent.

It also put support for independence at 23 per cent, with 52 per cent against, and those who don’t know on 11 per cent. If the don’t knows were removed, this would put support for independence at around a third.

The survey showed that 49 per cent of Welsh voters believe that Scottish independence is likely within the next 10 years, while 23 per cent do not.

Mr Harri described the breakdown among Labour voters, which shows 38 per cent for independence and 39 per cent against as “striking”.


He said: “Welsh nationalism was largely driven by the linguistic and cultural ambitions of intellectuals. It was passionate, but a minority sport.

“Plaid Cymru’s failure to win a Westminster seat beyond its Welsh-speaking heartlands in Gwynedd and Dyfed speaks volumes — or should I say “cyfrolau”.

“Plaid Cymru are still struggling, but the idea of independence is taking off, with new recruits from very different backgrounds.”

“The breakdown among Labour voters is also striking: 38 per cent are in the independence camp and 39 per cent against.

“In younger age groups, the momentum builds further. Nearly a third across Wales would vote to leave, and 16-years-olds have been given the right to vote in the next elections to the Welsh Senedd, due this May.

“Brexiteers will hate me for saying this, but it is clear that some have contributed more to the cause of Welsh independence than my late father. The prospect of being attached to a leftover English rump of the UK, if Scotland and Northern Ireland head off, seems bleak to many people.

“Is it unstoppable? Clearly not. A majority across every county, class and age group would stick with the Union in a vote tomorrow. But there is dissatisfaction with the status quo.

“The system has been destabilised, and the case for the Union will need to be strengthened if it is to see off the prospect of Wexit.”

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