The importance of being earnest about Welsh independence
Gareth Ceidiog Hughes
To be perfectly frank, Wales needs to seriously wake the hell up.
I say this with the same love and concern that I would for a member of my own family who I felt was on the wrong and harmful path. We are a family of hard truths and soft hearts.
When you’re ringing an alarm bell you don’t do it gently and you don’t worry about making too much noise or startling people. That’s kind of the whole point.
There is a fire in the building and that needs to be communicated in a direct and forthright manner. There is a time for diplomacy and couching language in oblique flummery. Now is not that time. Wales is not in a good place right now and there is no point kidding ourselves that it is otherwise. This is an emergency and our attachment to the British state has led us to catastrophe after catastrophe.
The fact that Wales is facing an economic downturn of Great Depression proportions is a direct result of being dictated to by the Westminster establishment. As is the fact that many of our citizens have died during the Covid-19 crisis. The fact that the impact has been less severe here than in England is due in no small part to the fact that we do have limited control of our own affairs.
The lesson here is very clear. Wales needs far more control of its own affairs. This is not just a matter of health, wealth and happiness and so on. It is a matter of life and death. The attachment to the British state is an obstacle to this control. It is an obstacle to the health, wealth and happiness of the Welsh people. It is an obstacle to life itself.
What else would you expect from the mob that destroyed our mining communities in the Valleys, drowned our villages to steal our water, and who ensured that many of our communities are some of the poorest in western Europe?
There are many facets to this complex obstacle, one of which is status. There are people who believe that being part of the UK confers status on Wales. It manifestly does not. It does the opposite.
The British state has certainly conferred status on many ambitious Welsh individuals. But that is very different from conferring status on Wales itself and on the majority of the Welsh people. I believe it is folly to pretend otherwise.
When people arrogantly and incorrectly proclaim that Wales isn’t really a country, that is a direct result of the way our status has been systematically undermined within the UK. The idea that being dictated to by the Westminster establishment confers status on Wales prevents us from taking control of our own laws. That is why I am deliberately attacking that idea. That sense of status is illusory.
Now if someone’s sense of self, their sense of self-esteem is partially attached to that idea, then noses can be put out of joint, backs can be gotten up, some people will get defensive, feathers can be decidedly ruffled. I am aware of this, but I believe it needs to be done anyway. I believe the softly softly approach to be a suboptimal method of shaking someone out of a sense of complacency.
There’s plenty of blame to lay at the door of the Westminster establishment. But we cannot merely point the finger at them. We must also take a long hard look at ourselves.
I have been obliquely criticised for my bluntness. It has been said that I should not call people’s attachment to the union naïve, even when its foundations are crumbling and every other nation in it is seemly heading towards the exit. Sure, the Titanic has just smashed into a rather big iceberg and people are beginning to make their way towards the lifeboats, but let’s stay where we are anyway and tell ourselves it’s a perfectly sensible idea. What could possibly go wrong? Anyway, were you not taught etiquette?
The purveyors of such criticism are not always entirely consistent with regards to their own statements. Describing our attachment to the union as a lack of self-confidence one minute (apparently without clocking the irony). Bigging up the union the next. Pro-union Welsh nationalists are a curious bunch indeed, akin to a carnivorous vegetarian tut-tutting at a BBQ, having just polished off a plate full of chicken wings. So, it’s ok when you do it? Oh. Ok then. Gotcha. The pathology is fascinating as much as anything.
Not everyone will like what I have to say. But at least they will know exactly where I stand. I’m not sure the same can be said for everyone. I do believe in the importance of being earnest with regards to the debate on Welsh independence.
More and more of our compatriots are waking up to the startling and damaging reality of Westminster rule, which is why support for independence has grown exponentially over recent months and years.
To address and to change the appalling state of affairs in which we find ourselves requires honesty. I am well aware that this could hurt the pride of those who feel that their status is entwined with the British state. Someone who believes that a position of powerlessness confers status upon him has less incentive to fight for self-determination.
Why shouldn’t we have a Prime Minster representing Wales as an equal on the world stage? It is pride to believe we can do that. Is it pride to believe we cannot?
Why should we constantly be treated as second rate? This is not a situation we should be prepared to accept. I believe we can and should walk tall. But in order to do that, we must dispense with the crutches.
You will be hard-pressed to find anyone who believes more ardently in the potential for true greatness we have here in Wales than me. We see glimpses of it all the time. It is a matter of deep and abiding frustration that we are not coming anywhere near to realising our full potential.
In order to realise Wales’ promise, we need to challenge the toxic ideas that prevent us from doing so. And sometimes to do that, you have to say it exactly how you see it.