After the pandemic, it will be up to us to build the New Wales we want

Picture by Lluniau Lleucu / Yes Cymru

Llywelyn ap Gwilym, YesCymru central committee member and founder of AUOBCymru

The coronavirus pandemic is presenting the world with a global challenge on an unprecedented scale: over 4.1m cases; almost 282,000 deaths; and over 200 countries affected – that we know about.

The Bank of England has warned that the UK faces the worst recession in 300 years. It is therefore quite natural that some may question the relevance of the independence movement at the present time.

However, it is precisely because of this unprecedented global crisis – the limp response from both the UK and Welsh governments, the clear inadequacy of our current constitutional settlement, and the social, economic and political reshaping that will occur when the crisis passes – that working towards an independent Wales is now more urgent than ever.

March’s report on Wales’ fiscal position from the Wales Governance Centre made two things clear:

  1. From an economic perspective, Wales’ current situation as part of the UK is not sustainable
  2. An independent Wales which replicates the status quo, albeit on a smaller scale, is no more sustainable than our current situation.

In my article in the Western Mail discussing the report (Union not feasible for Wales as the sums fail to add up, 10 March 2020), I made the additional argument that increasing poverty, falling life expectancy and increasing suicide rates suggest that, socially, the current situation is far from sustainable, let alone desirable.

The past 18 months have seen a spectacular rise in support for an independent Wales, with recent opinion polling showing support for independence at around 32%, above the level of Scottish support when their 2014 referendum was called. While this increase in support is certainly encouraging, for those of us who are determined to see a better future come to fruition, our focus must turn to answering the question ‘what next?’.

How do we consolidate this support, and pull more people into the movement? How do we convert the IndySceptical to IndyCurious, and the IndyCurious to IndyConfident?

 

Community

As noted by the authors of the Wales Governance Centre report, “economic arguments have seldom been the main driver of successful independence movements throughout history.” That is why acts such as YesCymru’s fundraising for the flooding victims from storms Ciara and Dennis, and their mobilisation of resources to help with the clean-up, are so important.

These acts demonstrate to a broad audience that those who are advocating for an independent Wales are doing so because they want a better Wales, and are willing to start realising that vision now. In the difficult weeks and months to come, we should all seek to forge a deeper sense of community from such selfless acts of kindness.

But what if we could combine both the head and the heart, and begin to articulate a coherent vision for the type of country an independent Wales could be: socially, politically and economically?

Given the rise in support for independence, but also because many people will have some spare time on their hands due to enforced social distancing, I believe that now is the time to start this conversation. We should question what is and envision what could be, so that as the austerity-Brexit-and coronavirus-induced crises come to a head (and pass, as they will), there is a compelling case to be made for an alternative way forward, separate to the path of narrow British nationalism and exceptionalism that we are currently treading.

This is what I have attempted to do in my pamphlet “Llyfr Du Cymru Fydd | The Black Book of the New Wales”.

New Wales

I want to live in a better Wales. I want to raise my children in a fairer Wales. I want Wales to be a prosperous and successful country. But what does that mean; what does it look like? Lived experience varies from person to person, and so words and phrases like “better”, “fairer”, “prosperous” or “successful” can mean different things to different people.

Platitudes are a hindrance. Ambiguity is a recipe for inaction. That is why articulating in detail, not just the goal but the means of achieving it, is so important if we want to achieve a New Wales.

So what does this New Wales look like?

The normative values in the New Wales that I envision are fairness, democracy and community. Everyone, no matter where they live, what language they speak, their sex or sexual orientation, their ethnicity, appearance or (dis)ability, will have the material, social and cultural means to live a flourishing life: happy, meaningful and fulfilling.

By definition, the New Wales will, therefore, be fair. Power will be devolved to the lowest practicable level, meaning that people will make, or will be party to making, decisions about the things which affect them.

The New Wales will, therefore, be democratic. And as a result of this fairness, people won’t need to compete with each other and instead will cooperate, driven by a deep-seated sense that it is the right thing to do. The New Wales will be a true community of communities.

On this last point, it is worth pointing out that this is not wishful thinking: we are seeing exactly this type of behaviour across the country in response to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the most vulnerable in our society.

While the pamphlet is written in the spirit of utopian thinking, and does not provide a roadmap of how to achieve this New Wales, it does go into detail about the radical social, political and economic reorganisation that will be needed, some of which, such as unconditional basic income, are becoming more mainstream due to the current crisis.

It discusses many, though not all, aspects of this new country of ours, such as education, health and social care, energy, shelter and social connection. It also discusses how the New Wales will de facto be a green Wales.

Real utopia

If this New Wales is to be built, then the citizens of the present Wales must not only demand it, but must build it. As Erik Olin Wright states in his seminal work Envisioning Real Utopias: “if this is to be our future, it will be brought about by people acting collectively to bring it about” (p370).

The heartening response to help those impacted by the recent floods, and the community-based mutual aid that has been helping our most vulnerable tackle some of the challenges presented by coronavirus, suggest that the community spirit so central to my vision of a New Wales is within many of us already.

We must build upon this sturdiest of foundations to deliver a future which is not only different to our present, but is better.

The entire pamphlet is available to read in both Welsh and English at www.llyfrdu.cymru

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vicky mollerJason EvansSibrydionmawrCeriJohn Ellis Recent comment authors
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Plain citizen
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Plain citizen

Interesting but ultimately waffle. ‘Power will be devolved to the lowest practicable level’ , what does that mean? Give an example. The Cardiff elite won’t like that. Author says New Wales will be fair and democratic. Democratic centralism? Who will be franchised? What voting system? ‘As a result it will be fair’? ‘. . . As a result of this fairness people won’t need to compete with each other and instead will cooperate driven by a deep seated sense it is the right thing to do’. I love the optimism but a few thousand years of human behaviour suggest not… Read more »

Sian Ifan
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Sian Ifan

unfortunately despite good intentions it is waffle, what’s needed is not more ‘yessing’ and getting under buses to some hoped for ‘Welsh Utopia’ no doubt dominated and run by ‘Y Crachach Newydd’ in interest of their ‘FAMILIES’ more insidious than any Free Masonry’ – a really ‘DARK DYSTOPIA’ as example in the film ZARDOZ. What is needed is practical positivism as in the Basque Mondragon as now proposed for Cymru an ANTUR GADARN – National Economic Movement – Ymlaen!

Ceri
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Ceri

Once again, a Mondragon-like system could be good for Cymru (Fairer wages, higher degree of economic stability), it could be disastrous (rigid and un-climbable hierarchy, homogenization and stifling of innovation). It has absolutely no effect whatsoever on our sovereignty as a new nation. Your criticisms for separatism and boosting of Mondragon feel like a supporter of Manchester United telling a bunch of NY Yankees fans their stupid and should support their team instead…it’s a different sport.

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Nice analogy but this isn’t even sport it’s f***in’ serious ! Sian/Gethin makes a valid point – the content of many of the statements from those who purport to have some leadership or influence within our national movements borders on the complete naïve or abstract or both. This is a Wales where there remains a strong perverse attachment to values which do us no good at all. To shift from that mindset to some of the stuff written above will need a shift of polar axes not just a change of governing parties. So best set aside some of the… Read more »

Ceri
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Ceri

Huw, I am not trying to be glib, on the contrary, the analogy is a very serious one (and, being an analogy, clearly isn’t a statement). It points to the basic philosophical error being made by many people from within the current pro-indy movement; ‘I want indy because…x’ is NOT support for indy, it is support for ‘x’, (in the case posed by Sian/Gethin, Mondragon economics, in the case of Llywelyn ap Gwilym, 21st century socialism). This is evidenced by the ‘if we end up swapping one form of tyranny for another’ type argument which damns any hope of a… Read more »

Lost the plot
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Lost the plot

Until we see through and get rid of politicians who have complete contempt for the voting public (I am thinking of Country Councilors in particular), Wales will only be the old Wales.

Good luck, I share large parts of your vision, but we are doomed to failure.

Steve Duggan
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Steve Duggan

Reading some of the comments on here, half the battle with forging a new future for Wales is defeating the attitude that it can’t or won’t be done here. To make anything work you first have to have belief in yourself and what you are doing. There are plenty of examples thoughout history of perseverance eventually paying off. For instance, the first 13 states were trapped on the eastern seaboard by the Appalachian mountain range, natives and disease but through belief made a nation. Almost 250 years later – we now have an opportunity to do the same thing here.… Read more »

j humphrys
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j humphrys

Not easy, but worth it, yes.

Perestroika
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“….Normative values in the new wales….” ” …No matter what language they speak…. ” Llywelyn ap Gwilym Unless that:- “…language They speak…” is English and the aforementioned individuals are seeking employment within the public sectors within OUR non independent English principality. Unless of course that:- “…language they speak…” is English . The aforementioned individual(s,) wish for their children to be taught through the English medium. How can this non entity Llywelyn ap Golum preach of equality within the new theoretically ‘independent,’ wales? When their is an actual linguistic apartheid in operation already within the non independent English principality of wales?… Read more »

Perestroika
Guest

“….Normative values in the new wales….” ” …No matter what language they speak…. ” Llywelyn ap Gwilym Unless that:- “…language They speak…” is English and the aforementioned individuals are seeking employment within the public sectors within OUR non independent English principality. Unless of course that:- “…language they speak…” is English . The aforementioned individual(s,) wish for their children to be taught through the English medium. How can this non entity Llywelyn ap Gwilym preach of equality within the new theoretically ‘independent,’ wales? When their is an actual linguistic apartheid in operation already within the non independent English principality of wales?… Read more »

Perestroika
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My comment has been deleted. Therefore I will continually ‘paste,’ my legitimate comment on this far left , parochial, tabloid for village idiots until the comment is

Perestroika
Guest

Not removed.

Ddwi ddim yn Jaques P

Jason Evans
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Jason Evans

Haha, not only Protic’s pup but also the only idiot in this village, double whammy, how embarrassing for you, diolch for the laughs though

Perestroika
Guest

I’m born and bred within gwynedd so please don’t remove my legitimate comment(s)

Diolch yn fawr

Perestroika
Guest

“….Normative values in the new wales….” ” …No matter what language they speak…. ” Llywelyn ap Gwilym Unless that:- “…language They speak…” is English and the aforementioned individuals are seeking employment within the public sectors within OUR non independent English principality. Unless of course that:- “…language they speak…” is English . The aforementioned individual(s,) wish for their children to be taught through the English medium. How can this non entity Llywelyn ap Gwilym preach of equality within the new theoretically ‘independent,’ wales? When their is an actual linguistic apartheid in operation already within the non independent English principality of wales?… Read more »

Ceri
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Ceri

Welsh, welch… literate? I remember having a really good, well-reasoned, humorous conversation with a unionist Tory in a West London pub a few years back. Granted, he didn’t know too much about our culture or history, but he did know enough about politics ad political philosophy to engage in a debate with me on the ,merits of our respective positions regarding the union, (I was for the separation of the UK’s constituent nations, he was for retaining the status quo). Where are these guys on this side of the clawdd? Why must every unionist attack with ad hominem-laden, conspiratorial lies… Read more »

j humphrys
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j humphrys

Old Tories, different bunch altogether.

John Ellis
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John Ellis

That’s very true. Being an authentic crumblie by now, I’m well old enough to remember Torydom in the Macmillan/Heath/Home/Heath era. I don’t romanticize it; the party still had its economically hard right proto-Trumpian types, but back then they stood out because they were atypical, not because they predominated. Imperial romantic League of Empire Loyalist types who viewed the transition of Empire into Commonwealth as an indefensible betrayal, and the Tory part’s increasing dalliance with the European project as a dalliance with old enemies and faux and weak allies of yesteryear were more numerous, but if anything carried even less clout… Read more »

Ceri
Guest
Ceri

The old school, classical Liberal Conservatives of yesteryear have made way for the present day political cosplayers. Went to a vote count at the Brangwyn in Swansea a few years back; felt like comicon but less cool (no offence, sci-fiers, we love you really). I’m sure someone like Portillo (or even David Davies or circa 2014 RT) would be amenable to the new wave of non parisan, peaceful, reasoned arguments for dissolving the Union. Ah well, ‘mlaen i’r gad with powerhouses like Perestroika Protic

Sibrydionmawr
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Sibrydionmawr

Haha, gwych!

vicky moller
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vicky moller

Llewelyn AGs vision omits living within planetary bounds. This being the defining vision – the sine qua non of our survival, and the survival of much of earth’s life. Why this omission? Genuine question. Do the caustic comments do justice to the article? It is calling for building the future Wales and starting it now, from within, with everyone involved. Yes , one reason is the future of the human species depends on it acting with collective wit, as a multicellular organism instead of warring single cells. Another – exchanging one set of rulers for a more local set might… Read more »