As in Scotland, we need to have a discussion about the values of an independent Wales
Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru Westminster leader
It’s safe to say there were more Welsh supporters in Glasgow last Saturday than pro-Union protestors goading and taunting the passing marchers at the Argyle Street crossroads in the city’s centre.
Even if it rained on the Unionists’ bitter excuse of a parade, the extreme weather made Scotland’s All Under One Banner emergency march an indelible, unforgettable event. It mattered little that the rally’s speakers decamped to an indoor venue. It mattered even less that the marchers walked in soaked shoes, rain-heavy coats and soggy hats for hours on end.
What mattered was that 80,000 people took to the streets of Glasgow in January 2020: the results of last month’s Westminster election and the irrefutable reality of Brexit are bearing fruit.
The Saturday evening after the march gave an opportunity for discussions about the potential for future work among the grassroots movements of AUOB Scotland, Yes Cymru and other groups. Each has its own backstory, political habitat and trajectory. But each also faces the challenges arising from their successes: where next – how to maintain momentum and what are the delineations between party political and grassroots activities?
These are live issues in Scotland considering the SNP’s twin roles as a popularly-effective party of protest in London and a prudently-effective party of government in Edinburgh, and its manifesto commitment to holding a referendum in 2020.
But the common ground was an understanding that the independence movements all have a common, immediate objective: namely, to change attitudes and to inspire confidence and hope, without which there can be no sea change in expectations and no impetus to drive a wider spectrum of political representatives into the discomfort zone of change.
Which begs the question: how are the YesCymru movement and its party political supporters performing against the measure of changing attitudes towards independence? Wales presently compares with pre-referendum 2014 attitudes towards independence in Scotland, with a Plaid Cymru-commissioned YouGov poll last year indicating around a third of respondents being supportive of an independent Wales in the EU in the event of Brexit.
It’s utterly undeniable that the 2019 rallies in Cardiff, Caernarfon and Merthyr boosted the ‘I’ word into the word cloud of Wales’s public debate. But – just as in Scotland – we need to set the sights of our present trajectory on where we aspire to land.
Many of us who campaign for independence have a knee-jerk reaction to enquiries – sometimes loaded but mostly sincere – to the economic question of Wales. We want all the answers to everyone’s argument, and we want them at our fingertips now.
This is both understandable and laudable, but it is not of itself sufficient. It’s one thing to have a detailed set of specifications instructing how to build a train and its railway, but the destination itself needs to provide a reason for people to choose to get on board.
If the success of grassroots organisations – and Plaid Cymru – can be measured in terms of changing attitudes and building confidence, the independence movement will need to confound the clichés of critics, and develop an understanding of what independence will do for the people of Wales as well as counter scepticism.
It is, therefore, exactly the time to talk about the values of Indy Wales, because these values are integral to the building of our nation. And, to me, that means the values of social justice, equality, fairness and democracy.
Although anodyne as abstract nouns and worn threadbare by the British state, these values cry out for a new applied definition in an independent Wales. For what is politics but the constant endeavour to apply ethics to practical action?
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Wise words from Liz. Her vision of a independent Wales underpinned by a commitment to equality, social justice, fairness and democracy is one that’s likely to resonate with many people in Wales and boost support for the Welsh Indy movement
Liz, you know from your visits to SNP Conferences and AUOB Marches the word ‘ETHICAL’ does not exist in the English/Brit Nat lexicon. The meagre number of yoons protesting were probably members of what we refer to as the ‘Bowler Hat Brigade’ AKA the Orange Order or OD.
Wow, 80,000 Charles…….respect!!
Every generation wants the best for its children. I want mine to be healthier, wealthier and happier than I am and certainly they are a lot better off than my family when I was a child. We must be welcoming to all who can contribute socially and economically irrespective of sex, race, sexual orientation etc. The ‘economic cake’ of a nation can be divided up in so many ways, the key is to ensure it’s big enough and certainly a lot bigger than now in Wales. Airy fairy waffle won’t cut it for the vast majority of the population. We… Read more »
Discussion with who? Who is advocating that an independent Wales should not have the values of social justice, equality, fairness and democracy?
what happened to planetary responsibility in the values? or is that a subset of another value?
Ideological policy agendas would limit the move towards independence. As another commenter has said, parties must focus on the systems of governance, not specific ideologies or broad, meaningless aspirations. Most people are good, so aspirations like equality are patronising, however, people are also opinionated, so specific policies would divide and distract.
There is only 1 Welsh Revolution, and it is the Cymraeg Restoration.
Cynnau canhwyllau yng Nghastell Caergwrle.
I broadly agree with the two immediately previous comments, and especially with Arwyn Lloyd’s perceptive observation that ‘at the moment ‘it’ – i.e. the campaign for independence – is ‘a movement dominated by ideas from the social left and Y Fro cultural conservatives’. I keep being drawn back to the history of that first part of the UK to achieve independence, the 26 counties which ultimately became the Republic of Ireland. Ireland long shared Wales’s history of being very considerably a ‘British backwater’ whose resources, such as they were, had been routinely siphoned away to benefit of other parts of… Read more »
Ok, what do they pay you by the word or the letter?… Opportunity with Social & Economical progress is vital, but it’s not green anymore, long since withered…. Democratically rather than Demogogery would be a great step!!!! Is your constitution civil? In America, most of our politicians constitutions are green (horned)…. Constitutional reform rather than Crooked Gams or crooked games would be ideal!!!! What do you call progress?; hundreds of years of regression, decimation, entitlements to few & poverty or diaspora to the remainder???? Where the supposed progress????
Completely agreed about governance. Need to utilize whatever resources are at our disposal to subdue vast inequities, systemic failures, corruption & partisan politics. Definately agree there, focus on self governance!!!!
I think I put the same point across Arwyn in another thread, albeit in a very simplistic way. If I met a Welsh Boris, a Welsh Nigel and a Welsh Jeremy their ideas about how Wales should be governed would all be very different. But the most important question would be whether were they pro Welsh Independence. If they were i’d be happy to walk alongside them all on the Indy Marches. When Wales becomes Independent then we can all argue about how it should be governed. But it would be Welsh people having the argument and making the decisions… Read more »
Arwyn Lloyd’s comments are pertinent and highly relevant, they don’t need further comment. The challenge is to persuade hearts and minds about the logic – and indeed the exciting challenge – of independence. It is about improving opportunities, prospects, living standards and indeed creating a new nation and all that implies.
This is not the time for facile discussions on post independence governance; that comes later.
If you want to create a new nation and ‘improve opportunities, prospects, living standards’ how are you going to do it? At the moment Wales relies upon transfers from the rest of the UK, specifically England. To be independent means you have to stand on your own two feet if necessary so we have to persuade voters this is an attractive prospect and we come to economics. What policies are you going to propose that convince voters that Wales will be a Switzerland not a Zimbabwe?
Good points, well made. I am always happy to be corrected. The thrust of my argument is that at the moment it appears a majority in Wales are against independence, to persuade them to vote in favour, economic considerations could be key (“It’s the economy, stupid” . . George Bush), therefore economic and fiscal plans and policies would be important in the voters considerations. What would we offer? Currency? Tax rates? I agree its vital we expand the education sector and sort out transport, what else would proponents of indepence offer the electorate I wonder?
Wouldn’t it be up to the people of Wales to decide what kind of government they want after independence?
“Dont need further comment” eschues social & political censorship…. Idol words vs action is pertinent, do you mean symbolic logic or practical? No one disagrees with self governance, that’s Ideal! But is that by Marcher Lords or privy to public citizens?
My hunch is that most contemporary Welsh people – all the more so in areas outside ‘Y Fro’ – don’t share the mutinously resentful sentiments which drove most of Ireland nearly a century back and which prompted most Irish folk to accept and even embrace autonomy – even though they were doubtless warned that the immediate and even the medium-term economic consequences were likely to be grim! And for decades, independent Ireland did indeed lack the resources to fund existing public services, let alone expand into new ones; thus by sheer necessity the government had to look to the Roman… Read more »
Agree entirely. If the Welsh government can simultaneously assert and demonstrate good stewardship in the powers that they already have, voters here will be likely both to take more interest in the Bay and favour the devolution of more.
People keep talking of this “resounding victory”, which amounts to Brexit leaning with 41.5% against 57.8% in Cymru. This may have been their high oint, and built on huge promises.
Welsh in American dont even learn what or where Wales is…. we hear about the “English” and the “Scotch-Irish” in history, no Welsh, they seem to be naturalized as English…. that’s how you are represented here…. You have enough ex-pats in Australia, America, South America, France, Canada, etc…. Establishing some sense of Cymry history & identity would help alot…. Independence at this juncture sounds akin to suicide, need diplomacy with expats & others to have international trade I’d think? Could be a good start, just trying to help, good luck!!!!
Completely agree there. Feel Plaid’s Commission on Independence needs to be run Independently from the party as well. Plaid needs to open itself up not wall itself off.
So…. how much do you pay for Prince Phillip in the can out there????
“All Men are created equal ….with certain unalienable rights”, “Liberté, égalité, fraternité!”. No doubt Wales could come up with equally pretentious stuff, but to what ends- to join the many nations of the world who ain’t walking their talk? Wales needs action plans not gesture politics, pragmatism not ideology. Independence is not buying wholesale into whatever values and political correctness are globally trending, it’s valuing and building on the nation’s unique culture and heritage.
Great words brethren!
Wales has to decide how it can increase its GDP or at least have a plan as to how to do it. Wales will need inward investment – but into what areas of the country and into which industries? Surely not into the existing Steel industry which mainly produces low added value steels that any third world country can produce at about a third of the price.
I have a lot of respect for Liz Saville, but she’s wrong on this one. As some of the other posters have said, placing some nominal ‘Values’ as a prerequisite for an Independent Wales is a big no-no. Especially as such values sound suspiciously similar to Plaid’s virtous lefty agenda. These will only alienate two key audiences, small ‘c’ conservatives in both Welsh speaking Wales and Non-Welsh speaking Wales, plus the substantial audience in ‘British Wales’ who could also baulk at such a pre-set agenda. Politicians should butt out-allow the independence movement to continue to be the ‘big tent’ phenomena… Read more »
Beyond (and of course related to) the question of governance, should we not be looking at the “nuts and bolts ” of economic development? I suspect that a couple of areas that should either develop naturally or be encouraged to develop in an independent Wales are banking and insurance. Our homegrown banks have been sucked into the Southeast England vortex and our insurance industry is appallingly weak as is only natural in a Britain-wide economy. Who insures your car, your house, your life? Who do you bank with, and who do you have your mortgage with if you are lucky… Read more »
Like 80,000 on the march? And, she was there!
Another good article by our Woman at Westminster. Clearly one of the major benefits of independence in legislation is the speed of action. Wales could shift gear on electrifying all our railways. It could also put solar panels over every out of town shopping mall and cover supermarket car parks, the developers need to pay their share of the shift to green energy and need a little legal push. A separate Welsh tax base means companies acting in Wales would pay VAT and other taxes in Cardiff HQs and not in London something which has always made us look poorer… Read more »
Sylwadau diddorol am yr erthygl hon.!
Have you ever asked about Cymru’s power generation? I have many times and no one answers…………..
Values transcend national boundaries; so it might be better to find something else to use as the foundations for an independent Wales. Politicians and values have an unhappy history in recent years viz. David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Alex Salmond and Jeremy Corbyn. The idea that there is a one size fits all box of Welsh values sounds almost totalitarian dividing people into those who accept these values and the ‘others’. A good way of judging a politician’s phrase is to ask the opposite: how many people in our country are actually against “the values of social justice, equality, fairness and… Read more »
What to value? …………….. Cymraeg……………. CYMRU.
An even more important discussion will be one on the practicalities of how an independent Wales would smoothly break away from the Union with the rest of Britain.