How the Welsh independence movement could be more inclusive
Among the general public Welsh independence is becoming ever more popular, with support now higher than ever.
With an increased amount of people both wanting to join and being curious about our movement, we need to make sure that we are including everybody in our conversation about the better Wales we plan on building.
Yet, even at this pivotal time when the movement for race equality is dominating our political agenda, there is much more that can be done.
For independence to be viable, we need to make sure that we include everyone when putting forwards our vision – not just those who are ‘white Welsh,’ Welsh-language speakers and/or Plaid Cymru supporters.
All of us within the movement have a responsibility to ensure that our movement is representative of the modern-day, diverse Wales that we have all grown to love.
With 5.9% of Wales’ population coming from a BAME background, it is vital that we include these communities when talking about the future of Wales. Yet, we often do not, with the movement at times forgetting to even acknowledge that they exist.
One example is Yes Cymru’s ‘Independence in Your Pocket guide’. It talks about the Welsh language multiple times and references our unique culture and history. Yet, this document does not mention BAME communities once, with the only mention of the word ‘diverse’ being a reference to the economy, not our communities.
I found myself quite shocked that BAME issues were not mentioned once in a 64-page document.
Documents like these could give BAME communities the misapprehension that independence is only for those who are strongly ethnically Welsh, with no emphasis on the reality that Wales contains some of Britain’s oldest multicultural communities and is becoming increasingly diverse.
An independent Wales will not work if it is based solely on one community. Not just in terms of winning support but also in reaching the goal of building a nation that is better than what we are leaving behind. We cannot cure systemic underrepresentation with more underrepresentation.
The only way to solve this problem is if we, as a movement, work closely with diverse communities in order to ensure that we meet their needs too. For example, there has been a strong campaign within the independence movement to teach the history of Wales on the Welsh curriculum. But we should be campaigning to ensure that not only ‘white’ Welsh history is taught within the curriculum, but also BAME Welsh history too.
When talking about the chronic underrepresentation that Wales experiences within the current UK political structures, we could also be talking about the chronic underrepresentation that BAME individuals, especially women, have experienced within our own political structures and how independence could help to fix this. For instance, there has never been a BAME woman elected to our Senedd.
We need to be using our movement to empower these communities too, and showcase a vision of independence that is open and tolerant to all.
Another issue that I have noticed within the independence movement is that very often there is a lack of willingness to work across parties. I have personally had members within the movement tell me that I do not genuinely believe in independence because I am not a member of Plaid Cymru, or because (at the time) I was a member of a Unionist party.
Within the movement’s culture, it feels as if there is a type of ‘ideological purity’, and that you have to be ‘a certain type of person who holds certain types of view’ to support independence. Even the official YesCymru account occasionally tweets views that are party-political and somewhat partisan.
Yet, it is important to remember that people are members of different parties for different reasons and that parties themselves are broad churches. Not everyone joins a party because of their policies on Wales’ constitutional future. It is perfectly possible to support independence and be a member of any party, and our movement should be careful to always acknowledge that.
It is this exact same cross-party spirit which led to us gaining devolved powers in the first place, and then extending those in 2011. The only way that independence will be delivered is if we work across party and include everyone, embracing political diversity and using it to our advantage, and making sure that we present independence as something that works for people across the political spectrum.
We need to be working cross-party on a common brand, instead of dividing and excluding. With support for independence increasing, and many people taking their first serious look at independence, it is now more important than ever to be able to say ‘if you live in Wales or consider yourself Welsh, this movement is for you’.
The only way that we end up with an independent Wales that works for everyone is if we include everybody when creating our vision.
Modern-day Wales is increasingly diverse and open, we need to ensure that our movement takes these values into consideration. We need to be inclusive and supportive of everyone, regardless of their background or outlook.
Independence will only work if all are included. Otherwise, what is the point? We must be tolerant, and nobody should be left out or underrepresented.
We have the power to paint a better future, so why don’t we start today?