Yes Cymru is about to take a wrong turn – its members need to unite to stop it
Yes Cymru has a huge potential as a movement. Following a successful year, it needs to be careful it doesn’t take a wrong turn now.
At the AGM next Saturday, 13 October, there will be a vote on a motion to make substantial changes to the organisation’s constitution.
I have been asked by several members across Wales to write this piece, in order to urge as many members as possible to attend the AGM and vote against these changes which we believe would be a grave mistake. Here I will argue why.
Over this past year, Yes Cymru has had several successes:
- It has seen an increase of hundreds in its membership
- It is in a financially strong place for a relatively new organisation and improving quickly
- It has had some newspaper coverage and has been referred to in articles and speeches by pro-indy politicians
- It has attracted much attention and followers on its social media accounts (It’s Twitter account has just shy of 10,000 followers, matching that of the Welsh Conservatives).
Until very recently, I was a member of the Central Committee (CC), and I can vouch for the hard work and determination to the cause shown by all individuals involved there.
In passing, but of direct relevance to why we feel the need to write this piece, I have to mention something that has happened over the past few months.
Of the 16 members elected to CC at the 2017 AGM in Aberystwyth, five have been either suspended or expelled, on top of a total of five who have left their roles voluntarily.
Also, one CC meeting (23 September) was held where two CC members were not invited and weren’t given a reason; another meeting (6 July) was held with only 24 hours’ notice, at which two CC members were expelled from Yes Cymru and two expelled from CC.
We believe this is a worrying trend: a sign of a Committee not operating in a healthy manner, and not the way a transparent, inclusive organisation should be run.
It has been stated that Yes Cymru is a grassroots organisation, and this is a true reflection of how things have evolved so far, with local groups being set up the length and breadth of Wales.
Representatives from these groups have been coming together every few months throughout the past year, as a National Committee, together with members of CC.
They have been coming together to discuss and make decisions on national strategy and funding of local groups and campaigns, and to share ideas and local successes.
However, the motion to amend the constitution at the upcoming AGM will do away with the National Committee altogether.
This is just one of a whole raft of changes which, taken together, will substantially centralise power in the hands of only eight individuals, or potentially just five as I will argue below.
The attached Yes Cymru constitution sets out the current constitution, with the proposed changes in track changes.
I would like to bring to your attention some of the changes which would, in my opinion, be detrimental, if not dangerous, to the future of Yes Cymru, the main and clear theme being the centralisation of power.
If the motion is carried:
1.) At an AGM, if fewer than 80 members vote against a motion proposed by the Chair (and previously approved by CC), the motion shall be deemed passed (Par 24b).
So, as an example, even if there are 100 present at an AGM, with 25 votes for and 75 against, a motion decided upon by CC would still pass. This is ridiculously undemocratic.
2.) The Central Committee (CC) will decrease in size from 16 to 8 (Par 28), and will have the power to remove any member from CC without reason (Par 31).
In theory, this means any five individuals elected to CC in an AGM could then immediately decide to remove the other three.
3.) The National Committee will be scrapped altogether (Par 4d), and therefore local groups will have no formal channel to inform national strategy, nor will they have a say in how membership fees should be allocated to groups, if at all (Par 69b).
4.) Rules regarding if and when to hold an AGM will have been greatly weakened (Par 14). Note the inclusion of ‘Save in exceptional circumstances (as determined by the central committee)’, and ‘endeavour to’.
The need to hold an AGM no fewer than 10 months and not more than 16 months following the previous AGM has been scrapped, with the inclusion of ‘in each calendar year’.
In the context of CC recently choosing to hold an AGM at 11:30am on a Tuesday with limited notice, I find this worrying.
5.) Furthermore, CC will have the power to make any changes it wants to the constitution during the year, up until the next AGM.
So even if CC fail to get a certain motion to change the constitution passed at an AGM, it could go ahead and pass it anyway at its following meeting.
6.) The CC will be able to set up a company (Par 3m), rather than a company which is a charity as is currently the case, and will be able to transfer to that company the whole or any part of the association’s assets and undertakings.
There might well be sound legal reasons for this, around liability etc. But considering YC currently have a substantial pot of money in its coffers, and projections for this to increase rapidly over the next few years as membership increases, combined with decision-making powers potentially being centralised in the hands of as few as five individuals, this might be a cause for concern in future.
Yes Cymru has a bright future ahead of it and will, as long as it remains a grassroots, bottom-up organisation, play a pivotal role in delivering Welsh independence.
However, as I have set out here, it needs to be very careful as not to take a wrong, potentially dangerous turn at this crucial stage, with these misguided centralising proposals which would emasculate the ordinary members.
As asked of me by several members across Wales, I therefore urge as many members as possible to attend the AGM and vote against this motion.
The AGM is held on Saturday 13 October at Memorial Institute Hall, Porth Tywyn / Burry Port. Registration starts at 11am, meeting at 11:30am.