The break up of the union looks like when not if – we in Wales need to decide where we go from here

Flags of Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and England with their respective areas separated from each other. Picture by Joowwww.

Gareth Ceidiog Hughes

The breakup of the United Kingdom looks increasingly inevitable.

If the latest opinion polls are to be believed, then the Scots have had enough of the Westminster shambles and want out, and this could have profound implications for Wales.

A poll by Panelbase recently published in the Sunday Times put support for a Yes vote in an independence referendum at 54 per cent and support for No at 46 per cent

According to polling legend Professor John Curtice support for independence has now nudged ahead of support for the Union over a sustained period.

In an article for the Sunday Times, he said: “Never before have the foundations of public support for the Union looked so weak.

“Our latest poll from Panelbase confirms other recent polling that has suggested those who intend to vote Yes in a second independence referendum have nudged ahead.

“Support for the SNP is also at a record high. Panelbase’s polls conducted over the past six months, including today’s, have on average put “Yes” on 51 per cent and “No” on 49 per cent.

“This is the first time in polling history that “Yes” has been ahead over such a sustained period.

“Support for independence is up three points on that recorded on average last year – and six points on 2018.”

The Scots are still fuming about the democratic outrage of being taken out of the European Union against their will and aren’t best pleased with the incompetent way that the Westminster establishment has dealt with Covid-19 either.

The poll also suggested that the SNP are on course to win the Holyrood election by a landslide. This will give them a mandate for a second independence referendum. Under the UK constitution the power to grant a referendum lies in Westminster. The UK Government may refuse to grant one, but that would run the risk of inflaming nationalist sentiment even more.

Were a referendum to be held, it is highly likely that the nationalists in Scotland would win.

 

Control

But pressure on the union is not only coming from there. Several polls have shown the situation in Northern Ireland to be on a knife edge, with some showing those who want to reunification with the Irish republic marginally ahead.

Support for the union is even eroding in England. According to a recent opinion poll commissioned by YesCymru, 49 per cent of Conservative voters in England want English independence.

According to the same poll 35 per cent of people in England now favour English independence, if the don’t knows and those who refused to answer are removed.

Wales needs to carefully consider what is going to do in light of this information. The entity known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland appears to be unravelling, whether unionists here like it or not. It probably isn’t going to exist for very much longer.

We have no control over what happens in Scotland, Northern Ireland or in England. But we can control what we do here, and that’s what we need to do.

The former First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, is not a supporter of independence and has said that he would prefer a more equal partnership between the UK nations.

But his support for the union is not unequivocal. He believes there is “no future for an England and Wales” if Northern Ireland and Scotland decide to leave.

He also said: “We may end up independent by default.”

“That is why we need to be ready to think about these things and be ready to discuss the matter now.”

He said that at the time of during a National Eisteddfod discussion last year, and it was reported by the BBC. If that was the case then if would suggest that the matter is even more urgent now. I would also argue that we need to go even further than talking about it. We need to start making real preparations.

Outcome

If something of this likelihood looks likely to happen then it makes sense to me to thoroughly prepare for the eventuality. Wales needs to act on the assumption that Scottish independence is happening because it probably is. Ditto with Irish reunification.

Misty-eyed supporters of the union seem to be in denial about this. We need to start planning for that eventuality now because you can’t stay in something when it no longer exists. The union might survive against the odds, but that is no longer the most likely outcome.

We should not be caught on hop by something we can see coming a mile down the tracks. The union appears to be leaving us, whether we decide to leave it or not.

The break-up of the UK is very much looking a matter of when and not if. Therefore, Wales looks as if it is going to have a choice to make.

But that choice probably won’t be whether to stay in the United Kingdom or not. It could be whether to be part of an entity called englandandwales. But should we wait until that decision is forced on us at all?

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