To win independence we need to win hearts and minds
We are experiencing a significant groundswell of support for an independent Wales at present. Plaid Cymru’s leadership contest has put independence front and centre. The growth of YesCymru has widened the debate away from party politics and brought thousands of normal, everyday people to the cause. We have Labour for Indy Wales striving to win hearts and minds within their party and social media stars like Neville Southall, Dai Lama and the Barry Horns have spread the word to their tens of thousands of followers. And more recently we have also seen special interest groups, such as Welsh Football Fans for Independence and Welsh Rugby Fans for Independence spring up too.
The overwhelming majority of those who currently support an independent Wales dream of an inclusive country built on the foundations of civic and cultural nationalism. A country where anyone who wants to be Welsh, who wants to contribute to their community and to the broader nation, can be Welsh, no matter where they were born, the colour of their skin, their gender or sexuality. An outward looking country that is richer, fairer, cleaner and more dynamic than that in which we currently live.
This is in stark contrast to the toxic, ugly British Nationalism that this month’s election of Gareth Bennett as leader of UKIP in Wales brought to our front pages. The xenophobic, exclusive, navel-gazing nationalism that he and his party embody is the antithesis of what we stand for.
it must be acknowledged, however, that some outside the independence movement see it as largely (or exclusively) driven by jingoistic anti-English sentiment, a view not helped by some of last week’s invective regarding plans to dump mud from Hinkley B in Welsh coastal waters.
We must be very careful not to feed this view with our words and deeds.
Our battle is against unionism, British Nationalism and the British State, imperialism and power concentrated in Westminster. It is with those who see Wales as a region of, or no different to, England. Those who through ignorance or arrogance seek to denigrate, destroy and assimilate our unique language and culture.
Our battle is not against England or the English, or indeed any other nation or people. We mustn’t fall into the “Britishness as a synonym for Englishness” trap in reverse. Those who see Wales as we see it – an ancient land, an often voiceless people who are beginning to stir and demand better, a proud, inclusive, independent nation-in-waiting – are our friends, not our enemies, to be embraced, not pushed away.
YesCymru is a grassroots movement, made up of thousands of normal, everyday people who all want to see an independent, sovereign Wales, sooner rather than later. YesCymru’s devolved nature is its greatest strength, though like any such movement it can present its own challenges, in particular in presenting this positive message in a consistent manner. Language is important. In order to win independence we need to win hearts and minds. We cannot afford to alienate people with lazy rhetoric. Instead, we need to be unrelenting with our positive, inclusive and aspirational message of how life in an independent Wales will be better for all.