Devolution has failed; Wales either moves forward or we get taken back

PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR

I am a nationalist; all my life I have wanted my country, Wales, and my people, the Welsh, to be independent of Britain/England.

I want independence now more than ever.

THE CASE FOR THE ASSEMBLY

Let me start this section by admitting that this piece was prompted by something I read in yesterday’s Wasting Mule. (See below.)

The thought of those buffoons down Cardiff docks having a self-congratulatory bash  for twenty years of devolution is insulting to every one of us outside of the tiny minority that has benefited from devolution.

The picture shows people celebrating the referendum result in September 1997. I guarantee there will be no such celebrations for the Assembly’s 20th birthday – no matter how much free booze is laid on. Click to enlarge

Even so, let us try to be positive and look on the bright side, let’s try to remember the good things that twenty years of devolution have delivered.

Well, there’s . . . um . . . and then there’s, er . . . and we mustn’t forget, uh, you know . . .

Truth is that in concrete and positive terms – beyond free prescriptions and other gimmicks – there really is nothing. For unless you’re Stan ‘the pies’ Thomas or some other ‘developer’, a third sector parasite who smelled easy money and slithered over the border, or you’re one the shysters with their snout in the grants trough, there really is nothing to celebrate about two decades of devolution.

Away from the banal and the everyday we are told by otherwise intelligent people that devolution is a wonderful thing because Wales is taken more seriously as a country because we have an Assembly. We are now in the realm of the symbolic.

Don’t get me wrong, in my younger days I was a great one for the symbolism myself. It’s why I tried to saw the head off a statue in Aberystwyth prior to the Investiture in 1969. For what could be more symbolic than beheading the statue of a soi-disant ‘Prince of Wales’ to remind our people of the beheading of a true Prince of Wales in 1282?

But symbolism can only take you so far. It don’t put food on the table. So I reject the ‘more of a country’ argument. To those who truly care, Wales has always been a country, with or without devolution.

And if symbolism is the best that defenders of devolution can come up with, then in reality there’s little to be said in favour of the Assembly, and nothing to celebrate.

THE CASE AGAINST THE ASSEMBLY

It is proven by countless surveys and studies that Wales is worse off today than she was in 1999 when the First Assembly sat. Whether it’s the economy we look at, or education, the health service, or any other field, Wales has gone backwards over the past twenty years.

That would be bad enough, but because of devolution, and the absurd symbolism attached to the Assembly, devolution has facilitated damage that would have been difficult if not impossible to inflict directly from London.

What am I taking about? Let’s consider a few examples.

I’ve mentioned the third sector, so let me explain what I mean. I’m talking now of the influx we’ve seen of third sector ‘professionals’ to set up or grow organisations that supplement or replace local and/or central government agencies. This influx has been so great that we now have a much bigger third sector pro rata than either England or Scotland.

And because the driving imperative is securing careers and salaries rather than public service devolution has created a vast superstructure of publicly funded bodies competing with each other and duplicating each other’s work. For as I was informed in the answer to a Freedom of Information request submitted to the ‘Welsh Government’ we have no less than 48 organisations combating homelessness.

click to enlarge

Each and every one of those organisations has a vested interest in NOT solving the problem of homelessness because to do so would mean a loss of funding resulting in many people losing their cushy jobs.

What applies to homelessness can be extended to every other segment of the third sector – duplication, competition, waste of public funding and a financial disincentive to achieving the espoused goal.

Why does this insane system persist? Because a bloated third sector provides benefits for ‘Welsh’ Labour:

  1. ‘Welsh’ Labour can blame the need for such extravagance on the Tories.
  2. A vast third sector needed to combat Tory callousness allows ‘Welsh’ Labour to present itself as ‘caring’.
  3. The third sector provides countless opportunities for ‘Welsh’ Labour to practice the cronyism for which it is rightly famed.
  4. ‘Welsh’ Labour uses the third sector as an auxiliary organisation to the party proper and even as a means to extend the influence of the party in areas of the country where it has little electoral support.

This third sector is a creation of devolution, and would be retained, or even expanded, if Plaid Cymru was in coalition with Labour or replaced Labour.

Now let’s consider ways in which Wales is damaged that would have been far more difficult to achieve were it not for devolution.

Not so long ago I wrote about the despoliation of Powys by wind turbines. Specifically, the Hendy site where, under pressure from her London masters, the wretched Leslie Griffiths over-ruled the planning inspector’s decision and allowed the development to proceed.

Let’s say we had no devolution, and someone in London had said; ‘Now look, you Welsh chappies, we intend desecrating some place called Llan-thingey so that some of our hedge fund chums can capitalise on the generous subsidies’. I suggest there would have been a hostile reaction.

But run it through the ‘Welsh Government’ filter, throw in a load of bollocks about saving the planet, and the only objectors can be dismissed as a bunch of ‘nimbys’.

Staying with environmental bollocks, the ‘Welsh Government’ has signed up to the One Planet scam, which in Wales means encouraging an influx of hippies to take over land and ignore planning and other regulations because it’s good for the environment, innit.

The justification given is that Wales must reduce her carbon footprint . . . so we are expected to believe that this can be achieved by encouraging people into Wales, letting them take over unused land, working that land, driving their vehicles around the countryside, and filling the air with smoke from their wood-burning stoves, their joss sticks, and whatever they’re smoking.

Let the full idiocy of that premiss sink in for a minute.

Emboldened by previous successes these well-to-do enviro-shysters are no longer satisfied with hobbit houses and pig shit, they have now set their eyes on vast swathes of our country – and again, the ‘Welsh Government’ is helping, as we see with the Summit to Sea project, the first of many.

The area claimed by Summit to Sea runs along the coast from Aberdyfi to Aberystwyth then inland, following the A44 up to Llangurig (deviating south to Cwmystwth) and then on to Llanidloes, after which it’s the minor road up to Llanbrynmair, and Glantwymyn, before heading down the Dyfi valley to Aberdyfi. The area of sea claimed begins well north of Aberdyfi near Llanfendigaid. Click to enlarge.

Again I ask you to imagine a spokesperson for the London government announce, ‘We shall clear Welsh farmers and other indigenes from the land so that thousands of acres can be taken over by Mr Monbiot and his friends for their rewilding projects’.

There would have been a national outcry . . . but get the ‘Welsh Government’ to promote this clearance and colonisation programme and it confuses the issue, and makes it much easier to push it through.

What I’m describing here is what I’ve dubbed ‘The Godfather Syndrome’. You’ll recall that in that movie the Mafia had a profitable relationship with the Batista regime. Hardly surprising seeing as US corporations controlled the economic life of Cuba and despite being nominally independent the island was almost a colony of the USA.

Something similar is happening in Wales, with the beneficiaries speaking Estuary English rather than Brooklynese. Some may think I’m going too far with this analogy but the facilitating principle is the same – weak leadership here and a colonial relationship with their home country allows such groups and individuals to benefit from our country, at our expense.

Small countries and ex-colonies being run by remote control is a global phenomenon. For example, the ‘stans’ of Central Asia are of course independent – but still take orders from the Kremlin. The former French colonies in West Africa remain under a loose form of French control and the old colonial power regularly sends in the Legion to safeguard its interests.

I’m not for one minute suggesting that George Monbiot is to be compared with Michael Corleone, Vladimir Putin or the President of France but the truth persists that well-organised lobbies and groups such as those to which Monbiot belongs have looked at Wales and said, ‘Mmm, here is a small country, with a devolved legislature and an Assembly stuffed with third-rate politicians that we can bend to our will’.

And because Monbiot and his ilk have establishment connections they are aided by the fact that so much of our national life is controlled by civil servants that ostensibly serve the ‘Welsh Government’ but in reality answer to London.

But it’s not just Monbiot and his environmentalist friends, there’a whole galaxy of interests able to take advantage of ‘The Godfather Syndrome’ in ways that would be impossible without the chimera of devolution and a ‘Welsh’ Assembly acting as a ‘screen’ for what is – as in pre-Castro Cuba – thinly-disguised colonialism.

Finally, there’s the naked corruption. Cardiff Bay is a cess-pit where politicians and civil servants can be ‘influenced’, to the extent that the ‘Welsh Government’ is unique on this island in refusing to introduce a register of lobbyists . . . at the insistence of the lobbyists!

WHERE DO WE GO NEXT?

You must understand that devolution was never supposed to work for Wales. We were offered devolution, in a package with Scotland, because there were some in the Labour Party that agreed with George Robertson, who thought that devolution would “kill the SNP stone dead”.

Obviously he was wrong about the SNP, but in Wales devolution has worked perfectly because ‘the threat of nationalism’ has been represented by Plaid Cymru. After the initial shock of the first Assembly elections in 1999 Plaid obligingly removed Dafydd Wigley and then went on to bury its head up its arse by becoming obsessed with niche issues.

This is why those who argue that devolution is a ‘stepping-stone’ to independence are wrong. As are those who believe that devolution could work if we only ‘got rid of Labour’.

What devolution has achieved – and what it was designed to achieve – is to create a class of politicians, apparatchiki, third sector operatives and others, who either rely on devolution for their pay cheques or else enjoy having status and prestige without the responsibility that would come with independence.

And for as long as it toes the London line this colonial management class will be defended and supported by its Whitehall masters, for it disguises what is not merely continuing control from London but increased control.

Which leaves Wales stuck in a situation where not only is devolution not delivering for Wales, it is actually making things worse than they would be without devolution.

Which, for me, means the choice has to be moving forward or going back. And I want to move forward, to independence. But one of the biggest, and most bizarre, obstacles is that many of those claiming to want independence rush to the defence of devolution!

Make up your bloody mind – you can’t have both!

Image Jane Barlow PA/AP/File reproduced courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor. Click to enlarge.

The UK is already tearing itself apart over Brexit and this leads to an increasing likelihood of Scottish independence and Irish reunification, and then there’s the rise of the far right in England, all of which mean there has never been a better time to push for independence.

Devolution is thoroughly discredited, so anyone defending devolution is lining up with the colonial management class and their London masters.

We must be bold and push for independence, because defending the indefensible leaves the field open for those who will capitalise on devolution’s manifest failure to take us in the opposite direction and, ultimately, assimilation.

But being asked to ‘celebrate’ twenty years of devolution takes me back to 1969 and the Investiture, when we were asked to commemorate 700 years of subjugation. Now where did I put those hacksaws . . .

♦ end ♦

 

Wales: nationalism ethnic and civic

INTRODUCTION

I’m suffering from shyster fatigue and so I need a break. Which explains this post, something of a departure from my recent offerings.

Though it’s a topic I’ve meant to tackle for a while, but kept putting off as information about the plague of crooks and shysters preying on Wales kept coming in. But now, I feel the time has come to set out my stall in that global flea market of political theorising.

Where to start? Well, I suppose a good place would be with attempting definitions of the two types of nationalism mentioned in the title. Though I’ve found too many differing definitions to quote them all here, or to even link with them, and it’s quite obvious that all definitions are coloured by the political disposition of the person giving the definition.

So why should I be different?

ETHNIC NATIONALISM

Ethnic nationalism is the belief in a community held together by a shared culture and past (real or imagined). It need not be – as its detractors want us to believe – ‘blood and soil’ nationalism.

It’s fair to say that most nationalisms in the world are ethnic in nature. Though some conflate or link with religion, others with language and all manner of factors. Examples of ethno-nationalism abound, from Finland to the Fertile Crescent, and from Japan to Italy.

For a start, the Finns would not have sought independence from Russia if enough of them had not agreed, ‘We are Finns, not Russians, and the only way to retain our identity in the face of a programme of Russification is to become independent’.

If we look to Ireland we see that the indigenous Irish have always wanted independence from England, while those who have opposed them in the Anglo-Norman period, the Ascendancy era, and today in the north, regard themselves as British, and different, because their ancestors came from Britain.

When the Baltic States went for independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union the Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians were opposed by the ethnic Russians living in those countries because they, quite naturally, wished to remain part of Russia. Just another form of ethnic nationalism.

click to enlarge

Across the Middle East the Kurds, having given up on everybody who ever betrayed them (a long list), are more certain than ever that they must defend themselves, and that the surest guarantee of their future security is an independent Kurdistan.

These – the Finns, the Irish, the Balts (and the Estonians), the Kurds – are the nationalisms with which I identify. National groups that threaten no one but those who would seek to deny them their identity and/or their independence.

This I choose to describe as defensive nationalism.

Of course, when ethnic nationalism is present in larger nations it takes different forms. For if you are convinced that you belong to the herrenvolk, that your ruler is divine and infallible, or that God is an Englishman, then this gives you carte blanche to treat those outside your group with contempt.

This can reasonably be termed aggressive nationalism because it almost always leads to colonialism, and/or war, and oppression underpinned or justified by concepts of superiority and inferiority.

One of the great mysteries of politics is how imperialist powers challenged by defensive nationalism affect to believe that they are confronted by an evil. It’s strange to hear this slander mouthed by practitioners and defenders of aggressive nationalism.

Equally bizarre is hearing the left traduce defensive nationalism with casual use of slurs like ‘racist’ and ‘fascist’. Often done in the hope of silencing, or becoming the sole acceptable voice for, a national movement. As we see today in Wales.

CIVIC NATIONALISM

My understanding is that civic nationalism’s unique selling point is that it’s more ‘inclusive’. Though, personally, I find this questionable, as I shall try to explain.

From my reading and my experience of politics civic nationalism seems to come in two forms. First we have the type promoted in ‘new’ countries, those that have attracted immigrants from a wide variety of backgrounds and origins.

I’m thinking here of the USA, Australia, Brasil and many other states that came into existence following their ‘discovery’ by Europeans in the great age of exploration that followed the Turks taking Constantinople in 1453.

And while we can all be inspired by the US Declaration of Independence the fact remains that these ‘new’ civic societies were built on the dispossession, sometimes enslavement, and often attempted genocide, of indigenous populations.

Throw into the mix the importation of African slaves and civic nationalism begins to look little more than an expedient for blending together immigrants from various backgrounds – as long as they’re white and Christian – into a new kind of ethnicity.

The alternative type of civic nationalism seems to be that practised by established (usually) European states that might previously have been guided – or even been brought into existence – by ethnic nationalism.

The example I shall focus on, a major country famous for its aggressive secularism, is France. Since the abolition of the monarchy and the introduction of the First Republic in 1792 France has been viewed by many as a good example of the state built upon principles of civic nationalism. And yet . . .

Whether as a republic or a monarchy, 19th century France enthusiastically joined the scramble for colonial possessions and was England’s only real rival. While internally, republican values and the promotion of the French language were little more than assaults on minority identities within the state such as Breton, Corsican, Basque, Occitan, Flemish and Alsatian.

More recently, Muslim and other immigrants to France have been condemned for not fully embracing the principles of the Republic – and thereby not ‘integrating’ – due to their religious observances. (A criticism often used to mask other objections.)

In other words, ‘Everyone can be equal, and share in the benefits of the French state, as long as they speak French, abandon all other identities and ostentatious displays of faith and are, preferably, white’. Which is little more than the pursuit of monoculturalism. Almost ethnic nationalism by another name.

While a sense of identity can often lead to the creation of a state, it could be argued that a state can also create a sense of nationhood. For many civic nationalisms create a polity wherein the population is urged to conform to a set of norms which result in a new national identity, a people shaped not by history or by culture but by structures created by man.

I’m sure that at this point many of you reading this will have recalled the failed examples of communist states, built upon ideological foundations, guaranteeing freedoms for all, yet brutally enforcing conformity in attempts to create model citizens. And even though socialism claims to be blind to racial and cultural differences China’s treatment of Uighurs and Tibetans betrays the truth, as did earlier oppression of minorities within the USSR.

Defenders of civic nationalism might argue that in the ideal state built on principles of civic nationalism everyone would be free to follow any religion or no religion, speak any language they choose, and generally do their own thing. Which might sound attractive but would never be tolerated in the real world because it is a recipe for fragmentation and disunity.

My conclusion is that civic nationalism seeks – and will often enforce – conformity more rigorously than a state built upon the foundations of ethnic nationalism if only because the latter has a head-start.

FOCUSING ON WALES

That’s enough examples from around the world, or from history, and it’s certainly enough theorising; this piece is fundamentally about Wales, about independence and how we achieve it.

A future independent Wales built upon the principles of civic nationalism is now espoused by Plaid Cymru, and this can be attributed partly to Plaid Cymru’s move to the left, and partly Plaid Cymru’s refusal to confront the colonisation strategy of recent decades that has seen Welsh people becoming a minority in many parts of the country.

While this colonisation was taking place Plaid Cymru remained silent, even condemned those who spoke out. For example, I recall Dafydd Elis Thomas, when leader of the party, likening poet R S Thomas to Jean-Marie Le Pen for speaking out on colonisation.

Having done nothing to oppose this social engineering I suppose it could be argued that Plaid Cymru has little alternative but to now promote civic nationalism.

But my real objections to civic nationalism as espoused by Plaid Cymru and others on the left is that it treats Wales as a geographical expression, nothing more.

This leftist element – wearing its ‘environmentalist’ wig – also encourages the kind of colonialist arrogance that demands Welsh land, and Welsh public funding, so that people like Rebecca Wrigley, of the Summit to Sea project, can settle here and do their own thing.

Colonialism, 21st century style. Click to enlarge

Or listen to Natalie Buttriss of the Woodland Trust give her support to this colonialist land-grab.

The age of imperialism may be over for most of the world but twenty-first century Wales has a whole new class of district officers and memsahibs. With these upper-class invaders receiving support from the bruvvers and sissters of Labour and Plaid Cymru.

But my fundamental concern with civic nationalism is that it denies the existence of a Welsh nation. In this regard it is little better than the civic nationalisms of ‘new’ countries that marginalise or totally exclude their indigenous populations.

I am a Welshman, pure and simple, and I belong to the Welsh nation. Wales is my homeland. And for many reasons I want independence.

Others promoting independence and using civic nationalism as the bait argue that independence is a logical step from devolution, but why do we have devolution? It’s because in September 1997 enough people voted, out of pride in being Welsh, to set up an assembly.

Check the results. The areas that voted Yes were those areas where most people identify as Welsh. This applied to the Valleys and Swansea Bay as well as to the Welsh-speaking west.

Come to that, why do we even have Wales? Wales is not a natural unit like Ireland and Scotland, or even Brittany. The answer is that the idea of Wales was kept alive by people who believed themselves to be Welsh.

Which is why two thousand years or more of history, and a national identity, cannot be rejected because a few leftists mistakenly think that concepts of nationhood are dangerous or passé.

RECOMMENDATION

I am a Welshman, and my nation is open to new members. It always has been. Throughout the ages we have welcomed people prepared to identify with us and ready to take our side. I look at Neil McEvoy and I see a better Welshman than many in the party trying to destroy him.

There is nothing narrow or exclusive in my sense of nationhood, but I object to being colonised and exploited. And I will never accept that someone has an equal claim to Wales simply because they were able to outbid locals for a house.

And are we supposed to welcome the crooks and shysters I write about? The memsahibs advocating clearances? Assorted BritNats? Or Jacques Protic and legions of anti-Welsh bigots? Get real!

There may be no written test for Welshness . . . but we can all recognise someone who’d pass, and someone who’d fail.

I know my history, and I’ve been roughing it on the fringes of the nationalist movement since the time of Tryweryn. When younger I used to run on pure emotion, but in recent decades, as I’ve come to better appreciate how the system operates, it’s given me even more reasons to want independence.

Those who don’t regard themselves as Welsh, or fail to understand the true ugliness of the present system, will need to be won over by arguing that it would be in the interests of everyone living here if Wales was independent. Here’s where civic nationalism can play its role.

Where the 1997 devolution referendum was won. Click to enlarge.

But at the end of the day, as with the devolution referendum of 1997, and the extra powers referendum of 2011, the bedrock support will need to come from the Welsh-identifying element in the population.

Which means that taking Welsh people for granted, or worse, alienating them by promoting a route to independence that ignores Welsh nationhood, can only damage the chances of independence.

What is also damaging is putting the cart before the horse by trying to lay down the rules for an independent Wales without any consultation and before the objective is realised. This will alienate more people than will be enthused.

We must give as many people as possible reason to believe that their concerns and aspirations can be met with independence. And decide on the kind of new Wales we want after independence is achieved.

This broadest possible appeal is the only way to maximise support, and to achieve independence.

♦ end ♦

 

New Party, Fresh Start

It has become clear to many of us that eighteen years of devolution have achieved nothing. For by any criterion one wishes to apply Wales is worse off today than she was twenty years ago.

Our country is poorer, our children are less well educated than those of other nations, our health service is at breaking point, and as if that wasn’t bad enough our very identity is under attack from many quarters.

Those of us wishing to both retain Wales’ distinctiveness and make her more prosperous realise that independence is the only way to achieve these ambitions.

But we have no political representation, therefore I believe the time has come to discuss the formation of a new political party.

Such a party should focus on Wales, defending and promoting what benefits Wales and Welsh people, and opposing that which does not. For example . . .

  • Insist on our children being taught the history and traditions of their country in both languages; our young people being given the skills needed to work in the twenty-first century; restore our universities to being centres of the nation’s academic and cultural life rather than alien and grubby places concerned solely with making money.
  • Support native business and enterprise rather than squander money on individuals and companies that turn up in Wales having heard there’s easy money available.
  • Complement an innovative native business sector with an efficient public sector. This combination will largely remove the need for a third sector currently filled with political cronies doing the same work as other political cronies in competing organisations.
  • Seek to end the pernicious influence on Welsh national life of cross-border organisations that treat Wales as a region of England. These must be replaced by Wales-only bodies serving the Welsh national interest.
  • Support the Welsh language, defend individuals and communities using the language, and promote its widest possible use. All the while recognising that in the twenty-first century considerations of Welshness cannot be restricted to the Welsh language alone.
  • Prioritise the needs and interests of Welsh people in employment, housing, education, funding and other areas.

The bullet points I’ve listed above are no more than suggestions from me, because all I’m doing is inviting people to come to a meeting, I plan no role for myself in any new party that might emerge.

The reason I’ve chosen those points should be self-evident, certainly to regular readers of this blog. But I’m also hoping that such a statement will deter people from making a wasted journey on November 4th, because anyone who thinks Wales needs another socialist party, or a bigger third sector, or more Englandandwales organisations, really has nothing to contribute.

I would like to see a party that can ruthlessly expose the shortcomings of the parties currently ruining Wales while coming up with constructive ideas for making Wales a better place for our people. All the while reminding them that only by taking control of their own destiny can they have a country that stands comparison with the rest of Europe and the wider world.

The meeting to discuss the formation of this new party will be held at the Marine Hotel, Aberystwyth on Saturday, November 4th, at 1pm. Anyone interested in discussing the formation of a new party, or simply learning more, is invited to attend.

The lower ground floor room I’ve booked will hold 50 – 60 people plus a table for 6 or 7 speakers facing the audience. (Possibly more at a squeeze.) This room is to the right of the reception desk.

It might be a good idea if people arrive around mid-day and gather in the bar before the meeting begins. Meeting informally beforehand will give us a chance to introduce ourselves and perhaps decide on the best way to run the meeting.

Of course I have no idea how many will turn up, so it would help if you could get in touch to let me know if you plan on coming. And also let me know if you want to speak. I think everyone wishing to speak should be given the opportunity in order to get as wide a range of views as possible, but to avoid the more wordy attendees taking over the meeting I suggest that each speaker be limited to 5 minutes.

Obviously, for a meeting of this nature, there can be no agenda, no minutes from previous meetings, it all starts from scratch. So the first job will perhaps be to choose someone to chair the meeting.

I am not inviting the media but if it is agreed to proceed with forming a new party then those present may wish to issue a statement.

Those attending will be asked to introduce themselves unless they are known to the organisers or someone known to the organisers can vouch for them.

Contributors may speak in Welsh or English as translation facilities will be available.

I look forward to seeing you in Aberystwyth on November 4th

 

P.S. If you wish to make a financial contribution then please use the PayPal widget on the sidebar or the foot of this post. Make it clear that the donation is for the meeting/new party rather than the blog/wine producers of Argentina.

 

Welsh Independence Referendum

REFERENDA FOR ALL!

As you know by now, the SNP wants another referendum on Scottish independence, to be held towards the end of 2018, when the terms of Brexit will be known but before its implementation, in the hope that a Yes vote might keep Scotland in the EU without the need to apply for membership.

Within hours of SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon asking for her referendum Sinn Féin called for a referendum on re-unifying Ireland. Boosted by the increase in the party’s vote in the recent elections and playing on the fact that there is disquiet on both sides of the border, and in both northern communities, about the possibility of a ‘hard border’ being imposed once the UK leaves the EU.

UK prime minster Theresa May has refused to grant a Scottish referendum, making a vague promise of allowing a vote when the Brexit negotiations are complete and ‘the facts are known’ . . . or perhaps she’ll drag it out in the hope that the SNP loses its majority in the 2021 Scottish elections.

Here in Wales, in response to the SNP’s request Carwyn Jones nailed his colours to the mast of British nationalism by stating that we’re all better off in the UK. Last month declaring that after Brexit the UK could become a ‘mini-EU’. (Does he write this stuff himself?)

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has called for a ‘debate’ on independence if Scotland votes to leave the UK. Many others, especially on social media, are calling for a Welsh referendum.

click to enlarge

My reading of the situation is as follows.

Ms Sturgeon believes that Brexit is the issue to swing things her party’s way, and she may be right, for as we know Scotland voted 62% in favour of remaining in the EU. But will that translate into Yes votes in an independence referendum?

A lot is being made of those in Scotland who voted for independence in September 2014 and for Brexit in June 2016, with Unionists pretending to believe that this group will vote No to independence in a second referendum. Look, I have wanted independence for Wales all my life – and I voted for Brexit. Like 80% of Scots who voted for independence and Brexit my priority is to break the English connection; whether we’re in or out of the EU is almost irrelevant. So stop talking nonsense.

Sinn Féin has nothing to lose because a No vote to reunification would be expected due to there still being a Unionist majority. The party can count on its own supporters voting Yes, and nationalists joining them, but what if enough Unionists are so worried by Brexit that they’ll agree to a united Ireland rather than be outside the EU? There could be enough to be decisive; but whatever happens, Sinn Féin has nothing to lose.

Mrs May is the real gambler in this situation for any number of reasons, here are three. What would the UK Government do if a referendum organised by the SNP in defiance of Westminster returned a Yes vote and the SNP government in Holyrood declared independence? Second, Mrs May is increasingly being compared with Mrs Thatcher, but seeing as Mrs Thatcher’s legacy is toxic in Scotland this is turning Scots towards independence. Third, her own party, plus Ukip bawling in the wings, will demand a tough Brexit, telling them Europeans where to stick it, so delaying the Scottish referendum may be no advantage.

And here’s a final consideration that could screw up the Unionist position entirely. There is increasing acceptance within the EU that it needs to reform, to become less bureaucratic and more more democratic, and to crack down on corruption rather than on whistle-blowers. What if, as a farewell present, the EU, while negotiating Britain’s exit, simultaneously began reforming itself, so as to make it more alluring to Scottish and Northern Irish voters. For we all know how devious Johnny Foreigner can be.

But of course we are concerned with Wales. If Scotland goes independent, and if Ireland becomes one again – two big ifs – then there will be calls for a referendum in Wales. But there are important differences between Wales and the other two. For example, Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted, by substantial majorities, to remain in the EU, whereas Wales voted to leave.

~ ♦ ~

FOCUSING ON WALES

Let us assume that Brexit goes through to satisfy the BritLanders, that Scotland then votes for independence, and that the Irish throw themselves into each other’s arms, or at least, enough of them want a united Ireland to leave the UK as nothing more than Englandandwales. It goes without saying that in such a situation the calls for a Welsh referendum on independence will become louder.

While the position of most Plaid Cymru members can be guessed at, perhaps of greater importance is the position of the other political parties in Wales, especially the Labour Party. If Lord Kinnock is still with us in 2020 – and let us pray that the Grim Reaper ignores him (as we have learnt to) for a few more years – then I can see him leading the fight against Welsh independence. But what of Carwyn Jones and his gang, possibly more representative of today’s Labour voters than Kinnock?

Even with Scotland and Northern Ireland gone, I cannot see ‘Welsh’ Labour supporting the call for a referendum. The party is just too Brit in its outlook on everything, and so hostile to expressions of Welsh identity such as the Welsh language, as we’ve seen in Llangennech and elsewhere. Most recently in Labour’s refusal to back Dr Dai Lloyd’s modest attempt to protect Welsh place names.

On the plus side, the Labour Party in Wales is losing credibility and haemorrhaging support at a rate that is beginning to alarm the rats left on board, who are now turning on each other, with deselections reported from across the land ahead of May’s council elections.

We can guarantee the Conservative and Ukip positions on Welsh independence, and so without Labour Plaid Cymru could be a lone voice. Which will mean that in order to have any hope of winning an independence referendum the Yes campaign – little more perhaps than Plaid Cymru by another name – will need to remove party politics from the debate and appeal to the people on a different level entirely. Basically, raw patriotism.

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WILL AN APPEAL TO PATRIOTISM WORK?

No doubt some reading this will disagree with me and suggest that a Yes campaign could appeal to voters on the grounds that Wales would be better off in the EU, and so if independence is the only way to reach the land of milk and honey then they should vote Yes. The flaw there being that the ‘better off in the EU’ argument was used last year, and Welsh voters rejected it.

No, it would have to be done on the the most basic level, something like, ‘With Scotland and Northern Ireland gone it’s just England and Wales now, so do you want Wales to become part of England?’

And instead of discussing exports of salt marsh lamb to France, or Trixie Grant-Grabber and her friends at the Gurnos LGBT Muesli Knitters Co-operative losing their EU funding, it would be more sensible to use arguments that will resonate with far more people. One that comes to mind is the survival of our national football team. Because it’s not just the BritNats who want to see a UK football team; national associations around the world question why Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have national teams when they are not independent countries.

With Scotland independent and Ireland one again maintaining a national football team for Wales will become very difficult, after a No to independence vote it will be virtually impossible. How long before our national rugby team goes the same way? (Yes it’s scaremongering. What do you think the other side will be doing?)

An appeal to patriotism, painting a picture of Englandandwales morphing into England with the loss of our national sporting teams and other badges of our identity, might get 51% of the Welsh vote on a good day after a particularly rousing speech by Carwyn Jones. But 51% of the Welsh vote will not be enough to gain independence due to the strangers in our midst, and I’m not talking here about EU migrants.

At the most recent census in 2011 we learnt that 20.8% of the population of Wales was born in England. The percentage of the population born in Wales was just 72.7%. The figures may be skewed by Welsh mothers having babies in hospitals just over the border, but the effect of our lack of maternity facilities is more than offset by children born to English parents in Wales who do not identify with Wales in any meaningful way.

Perhaps a more telling figure from the census would be that for identification, shown in the table below. There we see that only 65.8% of people living in Wales at the time of the census regarded themselves as Welsh.

click to enlarge

Now it could be that some of these strangers among us would vote for Welsh independence . . . but it wouldn’t be many. They will vote much as the non-French 20% of the population voted in the Quebéc independence referendum of October 1995, overwhelmingly against independence, and enough to secure a hairs-breadth victory of 50.58% to 49.42%.

Which means that given the figures we know, and taking into account other factors, such as the English element in the population being more heavily represented in the older age groups, and therefore more likely to vote, the Yes campaign would need to secure the votes of almost all the ‘Welsh only’ identifiers to win a referendum. Ain’t gonna happen.

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WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?

As I hope I’ve made clear, asking for an independence referendum in the next few years will be a mistake. Partly because it cannot be won, but more importantly because a Yes vote of less than 25% could be so demoralising that some people might give up and resign themselves to assimilation into England.

It would make more sense to accept the improved devolution settlement that London is almost certain to offer to soften the blow of us being left alone with our centuries-old abuser. (Yes, London might want a referendum, but if nobody in Wales is asking for it . . . )

The extra devolution we’ll be given will be as flawed and useless as the devolution we’ve known since 1999 unless Labour loses its pre-eminent position in Welsh politics. But to fully capitalise on Labour’s eclipse either Plaid Cymru must re-invent itself as a nationalist party, or be replaced by a nationalist party.

We must grab as much as we can, we must squeeze every last concession out of the London regime, demand anything that can benefit Wales. And don’t be afraid to take to the streets and in other ways show that you aren’t going to be messed around with. I say that not because I’m trying to incite violence but because we have a corrupt and useless political class that will sell us down the river again and again if given a chance.

Once we’ve secured the best deal we can get Wales needs to be ‘stabilised’, by which I mean investment and economic growth needs to spread more evenly around the country, we need to curb colonisation, we need a strategy for the Valleys that goes beyond commuter communities for Cardiff, we need to provide a real economy for our rural and coastal areas instead of being grateful for zip wires and granny farming, we must invest in infrastructure, education and training.

We need to behave as if we were already independent to prepare our people for independence.

We are in the position of being unable to win an independence referendum in the next few years because Plaid Cymru has failed Wales. Plaid Cymru’s dithering and obsession with single-issue politics over the past 40 years has served England’s interests better than it has served ours. 

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