Wales’ loyalty to the union is incredibly naïve

Picture by ketrin1407 (CC BY 2.0)

Gareth Ceidiog Hughes

Rather embarrassingly Wales is the most loyal part of the union. The union looks increasingly doomed and, in this context, Wales’ loyalty isn’t just wrong-headed, it’s also incredibly naïve.

The fact that Scottish independence has been on the agenda for some time isn’t exactly a big secret.

A combination of Scotland being dragged out of the EU against the express will of its people and the horrendous incompetence in Westminster in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak has pushed support for independence consistently above 50 per cent.

A recent opinion poll by Panelbase commissioned by pro-indy organisation Business for Scotland showed that a clear majority of voters want to end the union.

They were asked: “Should Scotland be an independent country.”

The results were Yes 51 per cent, and No 42 per cent, with Undecided at 7 per cent. When undecideds were stripped out, the result is 55 to 45 for Yes, which is a clear reversal of the result on the Scottish independence referendum of 2014.

Chief executive of Business for Scotland Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp said: “There is no conclusion to draw from this new set of data other than the writing is very definitely on the wall for the union.”

SNP deputy leader Keith Brown said: “With consecutive polls putting support for independence above 50 per cent, it’s clear this is not a trend but the established position of the Scottish electorate.”

But it isn’t only in Scotland that support of the union is seriously waning. It isn’t just on a knife edge in Northern Ireland where demographic change is pushing the country towards reunification with the Irish republic. It is also on a knife edge in England.

A poll conducted in Norther Ireland has put support for Irish reunification at 49 per cent, and a YouGov poll has put support for English Independence at 49 per cent too.

The union is on the shakiest of shaky ground and its foundations are crumbling. This makes Wales’ residual loyalty to the union appear increasingly baffling. A recent poll put support for Welsh independence at 32 per cent.

In response to these figures, the political commentator Theo Davies-Lewis, said: “Although you’ll be told that this shows a clear increase in support for Welsh independence, the figures are striking. Wales as the last bastion of Britain? Clear that opinion will be swayed by events elsewhere. Pretty depressing glimpse into the self-confidence of a nation.”

I fear he has a point. But it need not be this way.

Support for a federal UK doesn’t look like the pragmatic option at the moment. It increasingly looks like wishful thinking. In theory, it has some merit. But actually making it happen looks like fantasy politics. Wales can’t be in a union all by itself.

The Westminster establishment is in control of power that rightfully belongs to our people and it has used it to make us poorer. It steals our resources and expects us to be grateful for it. Some among us have the naivete to even say thank you. But people in Wales, and even more so beyond, are increasingly starting to see through the charade.

Do we want to be a nation that gets pushed around by the winds of change, or do we want to be a nation that plants our feet firmly on the ground and moves purposefully in the direction it wants?

Do we want to be a nation that waits around to see what others are going to do, or do we want to be a nation that confidently pushes its chest out and asserts itself decisively?

It should be remembered that support for independence in Wales has grown exponentially over the past few years. It was down at a paltry 7 per cent not so long ago. There are real signs that the dragon is beginning to stir, thanks in no small part to the fantastic work of campaign group YesCymru.

We are belatedly starting to assert ourselves.

What the recent polling shows us is that we need to wake up fast. If we don’t, chances are we’ll be left behind.

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