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Opinion

Westminster has made it clear it won’t let Wales or Scotland go – so what now for their indy movements?

04 Sep 2022 4 minute read
Lord Frost picture by Tim Hammond / No 10 Downing Street (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Ifan Morgan Jones

Wales and Scotland’s independence movements have so far been operating under the understanding that the union of the UK was a voluntary one.

The challenge for both – and it was enough of a challenge in itself – was to convince over half their populations that independence was the right course of action.

Get that crucial 50%+ of support, win power in their own parliaments so that a referendum could be held, and – voila – those nations would have their independence.

The new book Independent nation: Should Wales leave the UK? by Will Hayward which I reviewed this week proceeds based on this accepted premise.

That is, at some point, if YesCymru and others manage to convince enough people of the need for independence, Wales will have a referendum, which will or won’t lead to independence on the strength of the arguments for and against.

But this idea that nation-states arise due to the desire of their own populations for independence is itself perhaps based on a bit of a myth.

In fact, of the 70 nations that have declared independence from the UK, only one – Malta – won a proper population-wide vote on it.

What tends to happen instead is that the relationship between those running the semi-detached territory/country/colony and that of Westminster just breaks down to the point where maintaining any kind of ‘union’ is just more trouble than it is worth.

No doubt independence is a popular idea among many, usually the middle classes frustrated by being ruled from without. There is some sort of mass movement involved.

But the idea that the bulk of the population rose up and demanded/voted for their independence tends to be a post hoc story constructed afterwards by the ‘founding fathers’ of that country.

Impossible

However, campaigners and politicians in Wales and Scotland have proceeded on the basis that if independence from Westminster can be won, it will be won by a public vote.

The UK Government however is now putting that idea very much in doubt.

Yesterday it was revealed that the likely new PM Liz Truss is thinking of moving the goal posts on independence, declaring that now closer to 60% of voters will have to go for ‘yes’ before the result is binding.

And Lord Frost, who is likely to be handed a cabinet position despite (ironically in this case) being unelected, wants to set the bar even higher still.

There is of course the added hypocrisy that this same government has been arguing that the extremely narrow Brexit result of 52% was the ‘will of the people’ this whole time.

But let’s face facts here – Westminster will just keep moving the goalposts. The closer Scotland or Wales come to independence, the harder it will be made to achieve it.

Lord Frost was at least candid when he admitted in his same article that the aim was to make it “impossible” for the UK to break up because it would be a “humiliation”.

Goal

So, the UK is no longer a voluntary union of nations. Perhaps it was itself just a myth to ever pretend that it was.

Perhaps the 2014 Scottish referendum only proceeded because those at Westminster were convinced it didn’t have a hope in hell of success.

The same is true of the 2016 Brexit referendum. If David Cameron thought for one moment that it would succeed, does anyone imagine that he would ever have called it?

So where does that leave the Scottish and Welsh independence movements?

Well, perhaps it doesn’t actually make that much difference at the end of the day whether the UK breaks up because of a referendum or whether it breaks apart because of a fundamental collapse in the working relationship between the nations.

Because the goal of the independence movements is to convince people that a) their nations exist as a separate political and cultural unit in the first place, and b) that they’re capable of self-governance, c) people won’t be hugely materially worse off as a result.

Essentially, all YesCymru and YesScotland and others can do is keep going, keep pulling up the tent pegs of the union while putting down their own, and wait and see if a storm blows through.

Because the irony is that the more it has to be made clear that no one can leave the UK, the more people will start to feel trapped within it.

That in itself could facilitate a spiralling breakdown in the relationship between the nations – leading to the exact sort of crisis that history tells us tends to lead to independence after all.


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Mr Williams
Mr Williams
1 month ago

‘Westminster’ (i.e. the UK regime) is an elitist, imperialist, corrupt system that is bullying us. What Liz Truss and Lord Frost have shown is that they have the mentality that they have some kind of ‘divine right’ to rule over other countries, and that we must comply and not dare to challenge. We are now the victims of bullying. Plain and simple. Just as Ireland, India, Nigeria, South Africa and many others have been, we are also victims of their imperialist bullying. I don’t think we should be afraid to call them out for what they are, say to them… Read more »

Arwyn
1 month ago

There are many different ways this could go. There is no set template. A violent act of hubris set Ireland on its way. An empire collapsing set the Baltics free. Czechoslovakia ended in a peaceful separation. Other states emerged from populist responses to economic inequality. We must also think on the likelihood that Labour will form the next government which will change the dynamic in this situation. There is no doubt in my mind that the moribund UK is being rocked by crisis after crisis. In each crisis successive governments be they Labour, Conservative or even with a little help… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Arwyn

 “It’s time for all of us to plan for what comes after.” While plans are a good discipline to lay out a set of goals and how we wish to attain them, they have a nasty habit of getting disrupted as soon as there is any contact with the opposition ( or enemy if you prefer). We are confronted by seriously nasty people and don’t be lulled into thinking that in say 2 years time we will be confronted by a more mellow Mr Starmer &Co. They all have varying shades of BritNat dominance etched into them and will seek… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by hdavies15
Arwyn
1 month ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Wales has its own political establishment and we need to engage with it. When we move that we stand a chance.

The Original Mark
The Original Mark
1 month ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Starmer has already said he’s no fan of devolution and doesn’t support it, he’s proven he’s prepared to back employer over employee, his past doesn’t inspire much confidence either. Another teflon labour leader,

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
25 days ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Please don’t give them ideas!

Mawkernewek
1 month ago
Reply to  Arwyn

Czechoslovakia still shares a national cycling championship road race, and an adaptation of <a href=”https://www.rtvs.sk/televizia/archiv/9577″>Doc Martin</a>

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
25 days ago
Reply to  Arwyn

I disagree on the likelihood of Labour forming the next government, despite what the polls say. The reduced energy cap will give families some immediate relief in the short term and this will probably be sufficient to see the Conservatives over the line in 2024 (or 2023 if rumours are to be believed), regardless of the potential long-term impact. All the bluster with Boris will soon be forgotten. Such is the fickleness of the electorate. Even if Labour did somehow manage to win a majority, their prospects of winning an outright majority are slim. And governing as a minority government… Read more »

Last edited 25 days ago by SundanceKid
Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

How can all those cheerleaders of Brexit Tories, clueless Andrew RT Davies included, who argued leaving the European Union was Britain “taking back control” citing all those faceless unelected bureaucrats in Strasbourg & Brussels, when since Boris Johnson’s reign of dumbness occured in 2019, has meant Whitehall has not only hijacked Wales EU powers that should have been returned to Cardiff Bay not London as they were part of areas already devolved, have also interfered, used threats & intimidation towards our Senedd Cymru, doubted Welsh Government competency, indicated their intention to dissolve the 2017, Wales Trade Union Act, that protected… Read more »

The Original Mark
The Original Mark
1 month ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

But there was a consultation of a sort, and good old carwyn capitulated and handed over power as easily as if he was passing the salt to someone,

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
25 days ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

If you have over 50% of a population intent on independence and being denied, it becomes increasingly difficult for the British establishment to govern effectively. History bears this out as one country after another left the empire. The most recent example is Ireland, and it is a lesson in what happens when you ignore the people or try to command a country without majority support. It breeds contempt, bitterness and resentment. It is incredible that as the UK foolishly chooses to tread this path, it has not learned past lessons from history. Sadly, ignoring the will of the people and… Read more »

Last edited 25 days ago by SundanceKid
Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago

It was never going to be easy leaving the Union – England and the Tories don’t want to lose face. They’ll always put their pride before our prosperity and freedom. So I think for the moment the best thing we can all do is focus on how we can be successful as an independent country, work on how we can address the pitfalls. Yes, there will be major challenges. Then sell our thought and ideas to the rest of the Welsh public. In other words, ignore Westminster and focus on how we can flourish independently. Bring the people on side… Read more »

Ann Watt
Ann Watt
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

What a ridiculous reason is worry about humiliation for not wanting to break up! Lord Frost needs to learn that being humble is good! It is only humble people who are nice.Think of breaking up as simplifying your life.

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
27 days ago
Reply to  Ann Watt

Yes. That’s why I am always against “Wales should be a shining beacon” stuff

Crwtyddol
Crwtyddol
1 month ago

I think that the actions of Westminster since Brexit, combined with recent statements from Frost and Truss will weaken the union, not strengthen it. A supreme example of a stratergy backfiring. The only question is “how long?”

David Charles pearn
David Charles pearn
24 days ago
Reply to  Crwtyddol

Cardiff March for independence October 1st 12 o’clock please support yes cymru and show Wales have had enough of being ignored by westmonster and the tories, enough is enough.

Richard
Richard
1 month ago

Jack Frost and co will soon be gone so we need to focus on supporting a coalition of the willing across all psrties to help move Wales & Scotland forward. General T and her new chums will have their honey moon month before the Winter disasters come. She will hope for a late Spring election before Bojo and the Boys try a come back. Dominic Raab is fast becoming the new Jack Staw – able to see that the game is moving towards a close – many more in Blue / Red Wall seats will see how current local authority… Read more »

Notttabottt
Notttabottt
1 month ago

Its all about profit and resources. That is what needs to be made clear to voters. There is no sentiment from these people, this isn’t unfriending someone on Facebook, we can still be friends. But we should get to decide our own matters.

George
George
1 month ago

UK Government isn’t just attacking option of independence they’re also attacking Celtic Nations (and any form of devolved government) by over-reaching their influence and generally removing needed support in time of high crisis. They’re also making the UK an inward and spiteful place to live.

What’s next for indy-movements? Show people that better economics, better support for communities, better soft-support is found in indy-movements and people will find reasons to join in.

Gareth
Gareth
1 month ago

Clinging to what they see as a God given right to govern and dictate to the Celts, this crumbling union of unequal parts is all they have left. Still wanting to be seen as a major power and a country of influence, the English establishment now openly try to rig elections that may go against their will. Only willing to see democracy as a thing exclusively for England, the rest can rot. Ridicule and insult is all they offer the 3 Celtic nations, while claiming they keep these country’s afloat. The most telling thing of all is, despite all the… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Gareth
Mawkernewek
1 month ago

The UK is like an old star running out of hydrogen fuel in its core. Hydrogen fusing to helium provides the energy source for stars on the main sequence, for a star such as the Sun this can continue for 10 billion years, however once the hydrogen is depleted, the star starts fusing helium into carbon. This is a less effective and stable energy source, so the core becomes somewhat unstable. Instability in the core puts it into disequlibrium with its outer layers, which expand turning the star in a red giant. In some stars, the outer layers will pulsate… Read more »

pamfi
pamfi
1 month ago

Please be clear about the facts. You do a disservice to your readers by comparing/equating Liz Truss’ intention to legislate that ‘closer to 60% of voters will have to go for ‘yes’ before the result is binding‘ with the ‘52% [being the] will of the people‘ in the Brexit referendum. The comparison here should be between the 60% of all eligible voters required to vote ‘yes’ in an independence referendum and the just under 26% of all eligible voters who voted ‘yes’ in the Brexit referendum. Please choose your numbers (and words) with care, and do not perpetuate the myth… Read more »

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 month ago

Great observation. Westminster can keep moving the goalposts until we pick up our ball and go home. Their neglect of Wales and Scotland will eventually break the Union and it will be their fault not ours. Their attack on all of our rights will deliver our Independence without the need for all this unedifying begging the master for a referendum. What we should be doing now is enshrining Welsh and Scottish nationality so that it is on all documents which carry that such as passports, electoral roll, flag on driving licence etc. We must ‘use it or lose it’ so… Read more »

David
David
1 month ago

So a 50% of the electorate at 2019 general election had only 9 constituencies with a truly representative MP and they are:
Bootle, Labour, Turnout 65.7%, Electorate share 52.2%
Garston and Halewood, Labour, Turnout 70.1%, Electorate share 50.7%
Knowsley, Labour, Turnout 65.3%, Electorate share 52.7%
Liverpool Riverside, Labour, Turnout 65.7%, Electorate share 51.2%
Liverpool Walton, Labour, Turnout 65.1% Electorate share 55.1%
Liverpool West Derby, Labour, Turnout 67.0%, Electorate share 52.0%
Maldon, Conservative, Turnout 69.6% Electorate share 50.1%
Rayleigh and Wickford, Conservative, Turnout 69.5%, Electorate share 50.5%
Walthamstow, Labour, Turnout 68.8%, Electorate share 52.4%

Daniel Roberts
Daniel Roberts
28 days ago

Once the majority of Scots decide they want independence then it will happen. What’s the other option, a Catalan-style crackdown? Good luck with that in the middle of Glasgow.

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
27 days ago

I agree with I.M.J. There is one Englishman who has been predicitng this crisis for years. The sanctions rebound from Russia may accelerate things. How to prepare, though?

Nobby Tart
Nobby Tart
27 days ago

Frosty the No-man.

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
25 days ago

Sorry, but this is a rather irresponsible article which essentially concludes that as Westminster will put up stiff resistance, the independence movements are doomed to failure and shouldn’t bother. No one with half a brain believes that the UK is a “voluntary” union; it is a means of exposing Westminster’s lies. Does this author have any grasp of history?? Whether by war or democracy, the UK has not been able to hold on to any country where it does not command majority support. Without majority support, those countries would not have been able to win independence through either conflict or… Read more »

Last edited 25 days ago by SundanceKid

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