The shambles at YesCymru offers a chance for pro-independence parties to shine
An investigation carried out by Emily Price into the omnishables behind the scenes at YesCymru has revealed a damaging state of affairs that, by anyone’s guess, and for the very sake of YesCymru’s future survival, won’t be fixed with a reshuffle and some good PR.
Emily broke the news of the sacking of Gwern Gwynfil and two YesCymru directors in December 2023, receiving a barrage of online abuse and claims of ‘hysterical reporting’ in the process. These people should be thanking her.
Since then, more damaging information has been brought to light, with reports of internal conflicts and unauthorised spending, as well as concerns about processes and the very people who have found themselves in positions of power.
Leigh Richards wrote on our website: “It’s just a few months since I – and thousands of others – were fortunate enough to be part of the biggest pro Welsh independence event Swansea has ever seen. The Yes Cymru organised march and rally was a huge success, and after a difficult couple of years the organisation seemed to be getting back on its feet and to have rediscovered it’s raison d’etre i.e. promoting support for an independent Wales.
“Obviously its recovery rattled those shadowy forces ill disposed to an independent Wales, and it became necessary to plunge the organisation into a period of chaos and public embarrassment once again.”
Whether it’s a shadowy force, incompetence, or simple human nature, just as with Lord of the Flies, the conch was passed along to new hands. And look what happened next.
The current holders of the conch have been described as “out of control and corrupt”, with commenter after commenter echoing lines akin to Roy Chubby Brown’s “who the f*** is Alice?” with regard to the chairman, a Mr Barry Parkin.
Who, indeed, are any of them to let the ball drop in such a toxic, amateur way? And where is this once-exciting and honourable movement’s transparency and accountability?
An election is set to take place in February which aims to fill the nine remaining director positions, but who would want to slosh about in such a poisoned chalice remains to be seen.
And with a disciplinary panel recommending that the status of the dismissed directors is restored, the future looks decidedly bleak and unworkable.
A positive, inclusive movement for change cannot steer a clear path with infighting, alleged corruption and suspicion within its highest ranks. That it has come to this is a betrayal of its passionate founders and active supporters.
If proven to be true, rushing to create new bylaws to prevent candidates from standing is an abuse of power – power that such a movement should never be granting in the first place.
An internal investigation is now underway, with the current directors seemingly more concerned that information has been leaked than they are with the information itself. Months of further damage, further bad press, and a trickling off of members and momentum.
It needs a root and branch restructure, with Wales, the people of Wales, and democracy put back at its heart. Fast.
YesCymru has lost its way. Its disaffected supporters, many of whom are disillusioned not only with the current voting system but the often indistinguishable choices presented to them, deserve better.
I would argue, however, that outside of the two horse race (or one donkey race in many a valleys community – my own included), that our pro-independence parties do, indeed, offer ‘something different’.
The beauty of YesCymru has always been its non-party affiliation. Under the fresh, sticker-bombing and lively, youthful banner was (at least in theory) a welcoming of everyone, regardless of the colour of their rosette or lack thereof.
A poster the other day, fresh from YesCymru, couldn’t have offered a more stale, middle-aged Mountain Warehouse catalogue image if it tried. Where has the passion gone? (Ymddiheuriadau i’r model / apologies to the model).
And there is also a ‘business as usual’ outpouring from their social media which is not helping anyone. If one thing unites their supporters it is an openness to change. A rage against the machine, not a becoming of the machine.
“Riiiiiiiise like a phoenix”
I’m not one for cliched phoenix from the ashes imagery – or Eurovision for that matter but someone try and stop me ranting about us not having our own entry, I dare ya – yet here we are. The Independent Commission on the Constitution this week could not be more timely.
What is Wales? Are we lesser than the Scottish? They can have a few extra responsibilities because? They’re more of a country than us? I’m not quite getting that, and neither are YesCymru’s passionate supporters.
Until we get a better system and proportional representation, people will be afraid to cast what they see as a ‘wasted vote’. Better to choose the lesser of two evils, they think. And this is why we keep getting the same old. YesCymru offered a new way. And this ‘chaos’ could be their best move yet.
We have real choices for pro-independence here in Wales – Plaid, the Greens, Propel and Gwlad. Why don’t we all stop worrying about ‘wasting our vote’ and see the collective power of actually voting for parties that give a s***.
Plaid Cymru is the natural party that many YesCymru members have been discussing giving more of their focus, and perhaps their monthly donations, to over the past few weeks.
Plaid make their goal for independence abundantly clear. They say: “Decisions on the constitutional future of Wales should lie unequivocally with the people of Wales.
“Accordingly, we would seek devolution of decision-making from Westminster to Wales on the holding of a referendum on Welsh independence.
“We would introduce an Order to seek immediate devolution of power over currently reserved matters, including rail, welfare, broadcasting, energy projects, and the Crown Estate.”
The leader of Wales Green Party, Anthony Slaughter, himself a member of YesCymru, has said that he considered independence a “vital step” towards building a “greener and fairer Wales”.
The Green Party of England and Wales announced support for a Welsh independence referendum at the beginning of 2021, saying at the time: “We believe communities and countries should have the power to determine their own future.
“That’s why we’ll campaign for independence in a referendum on Wales’ place in the UK.”
It’s not unfair to say that there have been a number of ‘concerns’ regarding members of Gwlad. From neo-Nazi podcasters to proponents for Monmouthshire being a part of England (I take great issue with them not knowing what the map of Monmouthshire looked like a few decades back but that’s another story), there have been one too many unsavoury news items for my liking, but they aren’t to be ignored – therein lies YesCymru’s appeal – openness to people wherever their political leanings.
They are unequivocal, too, in their mission to work towards Welsh independence, saying: “Our instincts.. are for freedom: national freedom has to be aligned to individual freedom – free thought, free speech and free action. All underpinned by a commitment to enterprise and free markets. No force has ever proved so effective at sweeping away tyranny and poverty, and allowing people to live to their full potential.”
Neil McEvoy’s Propel is a grassroots political party that campaigns for individual, community and national sovereignty for Wales.
They say: “All countries, no matter how big or small, can stand on their own two feet and be successful. But more than that, we have a duty and responsibility to govern our own country.
“National sovereignty should be the overarching aim for our nation. Wales must be governed from Wales. Whilst sovereignty can be shared, any sharing of national sovereignty, or actions that would lessen national sovereignty, must be approved through national referenda.”
Commenting on the most recent YesCymru chaos, Annibendod wrote: “Sideshow and a distraction that detracts from what it was set up to do. The purpose of YesCymru was to bring independence supporters together. It has failed.
“All it has done is given a platform to idealogues and the power hungry. Don’t get me wrong, I am enormously disappointed. However, there’s no point being sentimental about it. It has failed. Move on. Just shut it down and exhort the members to join one of the political parties in favour of independence.”
Another commenter wrote: “The ‘minutes’ published on the website are the worst minutes I have ever seen in many years of experience in running similar organisations and charities. It is impossible to form a coherent picture of the business transacted at the NGB by reading them, as a quick inspection will show you. I complained about them once but I was gaslighted!”
So perhaps independence supporters may not be together under one banner for the time being. But the chorus of voices praising the findings from the Independent Commission need our parties, and our people, to ensure the words aren’t just hot air. That they’re acted upon and that Wales is *at the absolute least* given parity with our Celtic cousins in Yr Alban.
Let’s demand better from YesCymru, but also not forget the urgent need to turn our attentions to the ballot box.
If independence is your aim, you have four parties that share that goal. How about looking into them some more, lending one or more your support and membership and working towards getting the job done?
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