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Opinion

Why the independence movement in Wales needs to evolve

17 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Picture by Llywelyn2000 (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Ethan Jones

The idea of Wales becoming an independent country is a radical idea to many. It is a significant substantive change to the status quo that everyone has known all their lives. A status quo which Wales itself has been part of for centuries.

For such a transformative political change to hook people in and attract them from being against to being curious, to being in support, it must be built on the optimism of what that future could be.

People need to know that independence could and will have very real positive impacts on their day-to-day lives and household finances.

The independence movement needs to, at the very least, platform these visions that display the ambition for our future, the bravery to be bold and the confidence to argue the case with passion and substance.

That is certainly what I, and others, were trying to do at Wales’ third largest political organisation between May and early December last year. Opinion pieces setting out positive ideas of what Wales could achieve were the norm.

The ambition, bravery and confidence theme for Wales’ future was ever present. When it was necessary to be against something it was always made clear it was the Westminster system that was the problem, but that independence would provide Wales the agency to improve.

However, this approach has now been completely rejected by that organisation. Comms have gone in a totally different direction. No opinion pieces in the media. No platforming of visions for our future independent country.

Instead a descent into angry, ranty comms that are occasionally borderline anti-English. This fills me with sadness. It feels like having your library burnt down by people who cannot read.

The cause of independence needs positive contributions. Westminster will inevitably make decisions that anger, baffle and frustrate us; and yes those issues need to be highlighted, but then turned into a positive of what an independent Wales could do differently.

Media

The economy, health care, public transport, justice, public services, utilities, defence, relationships with the other countries of the current UK, relationship with the EU, our democratic model; all fields in which the case for independence needs to be made.

Central to building the case for Wales becoming an independent country is the media.

Having been so heavily involved in comms last year, this has really hammered the point home to me. The likes of Nation.Cymru, Bylines Cymru, WalesOnline, Golwg etc are absolutely essential for broadening reach and occasionally assisting to refine what it is you want to say or are platforming.

On that basis alone it has been mind boggling why some members of an organisation, so reliant on the media to provide a platform to it, have relentlessly attacked Nation.Cymru for the past few months and are calling for the publication to be defunded.

Not to mention the often very personal attacks carried out by this small group, mainly of men, on a female journalist simply for doing her job.

If ever there was a sign that the independence movement needs to evolve and mature, this is it. Journalists perform a vital public service in which they inform the public and hold politicians, parties and organisations etc to account.

They provide important scrutiny of decisions, events and policies. In short, journalists play such an important role in any free and open democratic society.

They will from time to time print things you disagree with, whether your own personal opinion be informed or not; it will happen. What you then do is either take it on the chin or learn from the issues highlighted and correct them.

An independent Wales will need a strong, skilled and free press. I want to live in an independent Wales that respects free speech and values its journalists who strive to inform, scrutinise and hold things to account when necessary.

Much is made about client media in the United Kingdom, let an independent Wales not fall into the same mire. We have a small but growing Welsh media industry and we should all treasure it and support it to grow and to thrive; not seek to cancel when a light is shone somewhere you’d rather it wasn’t. Stop and self-reflect.

When a newly independent United States came into being, George Washington himself made a great effort to protect the freedom of the press and strongly believed in its importance to a democratic society.

Witch hunts

During the War of Independence, the journalist and publisher James Rivington, of the New York Gazetteer/Royal Gazette, was a notorious critic of Washington and those seeking independence. Immediately following the British surrender, Washington ordered a personal guard to Rivington’s premises to protect him against any reprisals.

The encounter that followed is portrayed well in AMC’s series ‘Turn.’ What George Washington says to James Rivington is very powerful; “We shall need vigorous voices, to have prod and check, lest our young country stray down the same road as the one we just defeated.”

Let us all in Wales’ independence movement evolve this ancient cause away from the tired arguments of the recent past and reactionary witch hunts. Let us value our growing independent Welsh media. We must evolve our comms strategy and temper our frustrations when they inevitably arise.

Independence enjoys a solid 33% support, which has near enough been static for two years; this is a sign the movement needs to evolve. Should we choose to ‘keep things as they are’ or regress to ‘how things used to be’ then we will be left behind.

The movement has a collective duty to show that we have the ambition for Wales to succeed as an independent country, the bravery to be bold in our ideas and have confidence in our ability to build the case whilst making it relatable to the people. This evolution will lead to a new Wales.


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Andrew Thomas
Andrew Thomas
4 months ago

Great article needs to be read far and wide Diolch Ethan

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
4 months ago

I agree with the article – setting out the clear benefits of independence and the clear negatives of staying in the union is paramount to a successful independence movement. If there is written literature spelling out how independence can be achieved, with as an accurate assessment as possible, the people of Cymru can make an informed decision. At the moment much of the information is vague, split up and not communicated well enough. This little red and green book could be used as a template, it’s contents something to aim for. It is up to the different fractions of the… Read more »

Rían Clarke
Rían Clarke
4 months ago

I agree that Cymru should be independent and that a free press is essential, but George Washington was a slaveowner and a white supremacist.

He should not be used as a positive example as one of the founders of an independent nation. Because of him, and people like him, actual independent nations – those of the Indigenous people of the continent (which some Indigenous people call Turtle Island) – were overthrown and their people were massacred.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
4 months ago
Reply to  Rían Clarke

Ethan rightly expresses concern about current problems with our movement and wants – as do we all – to move forward. One of the major problems has been “supporters” who peddle their own views regardless of their relevance to the Independence cause. This response is sadly typical of this. All Ethan is done is to quote a figure from history, using a phrase that in it’s way is a warning to us. Instead of reading the article, thinking about the problems and issues raised by it, you have to jump up, introducing a negative (woke?) response. George Washington wasn’t perfect,… Read more »

Doctor Trousers
Doctor Trousers
4 months ago

I think we need to look towards moving beyond our separate Welsh and Scottish independence movements, and the movement for a unified Ireland, and towards a single movement for the abolition and replacement of the union. When we move beyond simply making the case that our own country can and should be independent, we can make a much bigger, far more attractive case to a broad spectrum of progressives across the british isles. We can make the case that it’s actually the independence movement that has the real, practical vision for radical constitutional reform that labour can only ever pay… Read more »

Art Byrant
Art Byrant
4 months ago

Not Evolve. Dissolve

Walter Llywarch
Walter Llywarch
4 months ago

Free Press? Nation Cymru is notorious for banning anyone who has a different view to theirs. Go on ban me and prove my point!!!

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