It’s time to discuss what Welsh independence is for

Picture by Lluniau Lleucu / Yes Cymru

Sam Coates

Last month, Plaid’s Indy Commission released what it called a roadmap to independence. It is an important piece of work, but it failed to do what the independence movement most needs right now. With devolution firmly in the firing lines of the British right, the independence movement needs to build on its recent amazing growth spurt with a compelling, unifying vision for what independence looks like. Arguably, it is not Plaid who is best placed to accomplish this.

YesCymru, with its coffers flush from a surging membership, could facilitate a process to secure agreement for that vision. By pulling together various parts of the movement like Undod, Labour 4 IndyWales, Plaid Cymru and others to agree a social democratic floor that all sides agree to put centre stage in their arguments for independence. 

This needs to be a platform that as many people as possible can project their hopes for a better future onto. This does not mean a bland ‘centrist’ platform of minimal change. Instead, we need a unifying vision that is compelling enough for our base to enthusiastically promote, so as many  people as possible hear the message.

I’d suggest this base includes Generation Z and Millenials who have never seen the UK do anything for them. Key issues for us include solving the climate and housing crises, and defeating systemic racism. But broader economic issues can unite the mass of working-class people in Wales, as well as everyone else left behind by Westminster’s neglect. 

There’s much to unite this base. Economic attitudes that prioritise the many over the few are widespread in Wales, not just among the above groups. And despite right wing media attempts to stoke a culture war and create division, there is little evidence of widespread, serious opposition to gender and racial equality.

 

Dignity

We can see the outlines of a unifying platform centred on care:

  • A strong emphasis on economic justice and standing up to the British elites that have fleeced us. The central offer must be a green industrial revolution to provide high-quality jobs that bring Wales to net zero emissions as soon as possible, and a minimum income that ensures none of our kids ever go hungry again.
  • Valuing care work whether of children, older or disabled relatives with free state provision. Free from the oppressive measures of the DWP, a basic income would allow carers to decide how much they want to work, and how much of their lives they want their roles as carer to take up.
  • Building on Wales’ radical working class heritage, a promise of a co-op economy, where large businesses are replaced by co-ops, and workers have as much say over their working lives as possible. Bringing dignity back to work that has been stolen by the precarious Amazon warehouses. Transforming the ownership of capital in Wales.
  • A homes guarantee. Abolish rough sleeping and invisible homelessness with housing-first, build social housing and tackle the out of control free market that has been displacing our communities from Abersoch to Grangetown.
  • No scapegoating and or never ‘punching down’ no roll back of LGBT or women’s rights. Full support for the trans community.
  • A no-nonsense ‘Cartref Cymraeg’ commitment that promises every child born will be educated in Welsh, extending the opportunities and richness of a Welsh education and bi/multilingualism to every child from every race and class. Free Welsh lessons for every adult, migrant and refugee who wants it.
  • A genuinely participatory democratic process to write Wales’ new constitution, just as we are about to see in Chile.
  • An NHS that includes comprehensive mental health provision and social care for older people.

This is just my example. But it could be exciting enough to motivate large numbers of people. Working class people claiming back their dignity at work. Parents never having to worry about their kids’ next meal. Minority communities that feel safer outside of the British state, unreachable by the forces of English nationalism. Trans people living their lives unharassed. Every one of us able to build a home before anyone else can profit from a 2nd house.

A Wales where the continued existence of our ancient language is no longer in question, and where Cymraeg thrives in all our communities. A Wales that puts all of us before the wealth of the some. 

This is not a maximalist programme. Debates will rage about the currency, about the specifics of how to rein in global corporations, about whether Wales should have an armed forces. But it is enough to bring together a social majority in Wales in the confidence that we will all stand up for each other, and resist any backsliding on these central questions after independence. 

The unique strength of the independence movement is that it is fueled by all of our hopes for a better future. It’s time to hope together for the next act.

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