A number of reports recently have highlighted the way that Wales is perceived when compared to the wider United Kingdom. Firstly, Sky News presenter Adam Boulton suggested in an interview with Delyth Jewell AM that Wales is not a country.
Boulton asked: “Do you think that Wales really holds together as a nation? You’ve got south Wales, north Wales, Welsh language speakers, non-Welsh speakers.”
In doing so, one must presume, that he was suggesting that the UK is a country of which Wales is a part, a region, rather than a country within. Of course, he fails to address that the UK is split in a more distinct way – it includes Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England, and includes the same Welsh Speakers and non-Welsh Speakers alongside Gaelic, Cornish and English speakers that seemingly puts the idea of Wales in jeopardy.
This week also saw the release of Warren Gatland’s new Autobiography, Pride and Passion. In it he recalls an incident following Wales’s win over England in the Six Nations in February. The defeated England team initially wanted to make a ‘quick getaway’ instead of taking part in the usual post-match activities. It was at one of these events that he noticed that the TV screens, which normally would have been showing highlights of the game, were blank.
Gatland claimed: “I’d had my nose rubbed in it on more than once occasion up the road in London. Here in Cardiff, such behaviour was suddenly deemed improper.”
There is undoubtedly a double standard when it comes to the treatment of Wales and that of England. It is a double standard that does not just reflect the two different changing rooms, but the media at large.
A programme on BBC Five Live (13th November) asked the question : Who is on England’s greatest ever XI? Now there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this question, especially considering it marked England’s 1000th international match – a landmark which certainly deserves celebrating.
However, the question needs to be asked: would BBC Five Live dedicate over an hour asking the same question about Welsh, or indeed, Scottish players? There is no doubt that a programme like this would be broadcast but it would probably be confined solely to BBC Wales or BBC Scotland.
In the build-up to the recent Rugby World Cup final, there was much discussion here in Wales as to who to support – England or South Africa. It may seem logical to support your neighbours, a country with whom we share so much and have so much in common, however, a frequent complaint is that if England were to win then we would ‘never hear the end of it.’ As the joke goes – England won the football World Cup in 1966 and we still haven’t heard the end of it.
The fact is, where Wales or Scotland are concerned, they are of ‘regional’ interest, whereas if it is England then it is of National interest. This is most obvious in sport. Another oft mentioned joke is how, if Wales met Scotland in the Rugby World Cup final, the half time show would still include the inevitable ‘And now over to the England Camp,’ segment.
In Cricket, Wales is completely ignored and subsumed into the greater English team. The England ‘and Wales’ Cricket Board becomes the ECB and the badge is entirely English without and reference to Wales whatsoever.
This bias can also be seen in history, which is almost entirely England based. The history of Britain is the history of England and battles with Wales or Scotland treated in the same way that skirmishes with France, or any other foreign aggressor, are. Owain Glyndwr is not a British hero, he is a Welsh one. The same can be said of William Wallace – he is not a British hero, he is a Scottish one. The reason for this is simple – these and many others, were challenging the English (British) state and so can’t be treated as British.
Adam Boulton’s attack on Welsh identity, culture and language, like others before him (for example, Omid Djalili’s joke concerning the Welsh Language) illustrate that, whilst the British establishment insists on Wales and Scotland being geographically part of the UK, the distinct cultures and languages within this geographic area, are not.
If the whole of the UK is one, then all languages and cultures within in should be treated as part of a greater whole, however, this is not the case. Welsh is not seen as a British language, one to be celebrated and taken seriously throughout the UK, it is an anomaly pushed to the periphery of the land and largely ignored. The same with Gaelic in Scotland or Cornish in Cornwall.
Boulton’s dismissal of Wales, based on the very real infrastructure issues between the north and south of Wales, stems from the belief that all roads lead to London. The national anthem for the UK is not one that represents the whole of the UK – Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and Flower Of Scotland are regional – God Save the Queen is English and British.
The only way the mind can justify considering the UK as a nation on the basis of a linguistic and cultural uniformity, and Wales as not a nation on the basis of a linguistic and cultural diversity – despite the UK having the Welsh language and culture within it – is if the unique features that make up Wales aren’t considered part of the UK’s identity at all.
We in Wales (and Scotland) have two choices. We can either accept or embrace our position on the margins; we can give up and accept the dominant British/English culture, or we can take ownership of who we are and strike out on our own.
These are the options that confront us, that have been made stark by Brexit, and we may well be voting on over the next few years. So far the Welsh government has not taken this dilemma seriously, although there are rumblings. Even Mark Drakeford has admitted Independence is an option, especially if Scotland votes to leave.
The Yes Cymru movement has grown from the ground up; it is about time those in charge recognised the danger that the country that Wales is in and made their choice.