YesCymru needs to move forward – members should vote for the new proposals at the EGM
Meic Pattison, member of the YesCymru Gweithgor
I would like to thank my colleague and neighbour Dr Dyfrig Jones for his opinion piece arguing that people should vote against the new proposals at YesCymru’s EGM on Saturday.
However, as a member of the Gweithgor, who has stayed the course, I cannot agree with his opinion that members should vote against the new proposals – for the following reasons.
We do not need to rehearse the issues that led to the implosion of YesCymru’s Central Committee during 2021, but it is clear hard lessons have been learned. The response has been a full consultation with members and groups resulting in the root and branch reforms now being proposed for approval by the members at the online EGM this Saturday, 11 December, Diwrnod Cilmeri. The Gweithgor, being the properly constituted task force of the movement responsible for constitutional reform, has completed its task and is now seeking the democratic approval of the entire movement for its proposals.
The transformation of YesCymru to an incorporated not for profit Company Limited by Guarantee suitable for a growing mass-membership grass roots campaigning movement is supported by Dr Jones. He is familiar with the clear arguments in favour of this transition, as he states: “This would provide YC with a legal and regulatory framework that will help guard its members interests, while also limiting the liability of those elected to its executive.”
To this can be added transparency, accountability, legal identity, continuity, good governance and the latest best practice across a range of policies. And limited liability for all YesCymru members.
Instead, Dr Jones frames his opposition mainly as issues of democracy and diversity. His claim, which needs to be examined carefully, is that the proposals undo a change to the composition of the Central Committee in the 2021 YesCymru constitution that ensures that 50% of the members of the Central Committee must be female or non-binary, and at least one member must be from a Black or Minority Ethnic (BAME) background.
However this provision can itself be criticised as it contains no clear mechanism for achieving the desired gender balance, diversity or equality on the committee, or whether it be a reserved seat quota, a candidate quota or voluntary quotas.
More importantly, Dr Jones fails to appreciate that the acronym BAME (Black, Asian, and/or Minority Ethnic) contained in the 2021 constitution is increasingly being rejected by those it seeks to label. Consider these statements in the recent article ‘Don’t call me BAME’ online here: “In truth it does more harm than good.”
“I mean, it was a white term, if we’re being honest,” says Tosin Attah, 20, from Lagos, Nigeria. “White people made it so they don’t have to say ‘black’, because they feel weird saying black for some reason. I feel like BAME is just their safe word to not come off as racist.” What’s more, racial and other discrimination is a far more complex problem than the label BAME suggests as it excludes some of the most marginalised groups in our society.
It’s a pity Dr Jones resigned from the Gweithgor before it had the benefit of receiving independent legal advice. By virtue of his admirable and extensive public and community service he will appreciate the new YesCymru constitution will be not just the bespoke Articles of Association but also the comprehensive suite of byelaws which will be laid before the Board of Directors, (the new National Governing Body).
Byelaw 2.18 of the draft byelaws provides: All Regions electing Directors must encourage gender balance and a diverse slate of candidates. All Regions should aim to return at least one male and one female Director.
If members feel this needs to be changed in the future, the directors, or the members in a meeting by a simple majority vote, may do so as the provision is in the byelaws rather than the Articles of Association.
Dr Jones claims, quite erroneously, that the Gweithgor seeks to remove any reference to internationalism, to Europe, to inclusivity, to race, religion, ethnicity and gender from the constitution. I would respectfully refer him to Byelaw 1 containing the Objects of the movement, it’s Mission, Vision, Values and supporting statements which, for the avoidance of doubt are set out in full below:
1. Mission: To achieve independence for Wales through non-partisan campaigning.
Vision: An independent Wales which is safe and welcoming to all.
Values: As an inclusive organisation we welcome all, however they identify themselves and will reach out across Wales to all of its citizens to achieve our mission.
2. YesCymru is a non-partisan campaigning organisation which has the aim of gaining independence for Cymru in order to improve the way the country is governed. YesCymru believes that Cymru would be better running its own affairs, as part of a wider European and international family of nations.
3. YesCymru trusts the people of Wales to make democratic decisions about the way an independent Cymru will be governed and does not prejudge what those decisions should be.
4. YesCymru believes in an inclusive citizenship, which embraces the fact that all who choose to make Cymru their home – regardless of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, or preferred language – will be full citizens of the new Cymru.
It is widely accepted the 2021 constitution is no longer fit for the purpose. Simply electing a new Central Committee will only put YesCymru back in the same position it was in following the last ill-fated AGM, with none of the benefits Dr Jones mentions in his opinion piece.
The way forward is to embrace change, change for the better, and be part of the future, and I would urge all members to vote YES, to vote in favour of the proposed reforms.
As Dr Jones says in his conclusion, “This would allow us to finally close the door on this unedifying episode in YesCymru’s story, and move forward to build a new organisation, and a new nation, that represents the best of Wales.”
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