Andrew Marr quizzes Adam Price on Welsh independence
Popularity for independence is on the rise in Wales, as millions watch Nicola Sturgeon’s breakaway bid in Scotland. According to joint polling between the independence campaign group YesCymru and YouGov, 33 percent of Welsh people with a view on the matter would vote to leave the Union if a referendum were held tomorrow. The data isn’t isolated: separate polling for ITV Wales in January put the number at 22 percent, with a considerable 25 percent currently undecided.
Most strikingly, despite Wales having voted to leave the EU in 2016, 44 percent of the population would now opt to sign back up in an independent country, compared to 38 percent who would say “No”.
Sïon Jobbins, chair of YesCymru, told Express.co.uk independence is a movement gaining momentum, and one that proves the “age-old” belief that those in Wales will be England’s “obedient little schoolchildren” is crumbling.
In the space of a year, according to Mr Jobbins, YesCymru’s membership went from 2,000 in February 2020, to 17,000 today.
It comes as Wales readies itself for the Senedd’s May elections, in which Plaid Cymru – the country’s main opposition party offering a road map to independence – hopes to topple Welsh Labour’s majority.
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Mr Jobbins said opinion for independence has transformed during the pandemic, similar to the events seen in Scotland.
Almost complete power – with the exception of money making means – has been vested to the Senedd and First Minister Mark Drakeford.
The country was one of the UK’s first to introduce a short, sharp “firebreak” lockdown last year, successfully curbing rising infections in some of the poorest parts of the UK.
Mr Drakeford’s ability to take control, Mr Jobbins claimed, has dispelled the “myth fed to Welsh people” that the country needs Westminster rule – “the middleman”.
Reflecting on former First Minister Rhodri Morgan’s comments following the 2014 Scottish referendum, he told Express.co.uk: “When Morgan said Wales should be rewarded for not putting Westminster ‘through the mincer’ of an independence vote, I couldn’t believe it – it’s a criminally naive way to think of politics.
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“The idea that Westminster and the Eton class of people are going to somehow reward Wales for being good little Sunday school children is absolutely incredible.
“We’ve seen since then that Wales wasn’t rewarded; we’ve basically been ignored and now, the powers are being taken away from us.
“This idea that we’re obedient little schoolchildren isn’t going to wash when Scotland leaves the UK.
“People, even if they’re not thinking much of independence today or they’re not too sure about it, we can understand that – but the issue isn’t going away.
“And people in Wales, whatever party they vote for, need to start thinking about when Scotland and Northern Ireland do leave, because that will happen within the next decade, and possibly even sooner.”
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Welsh independence does not yet appear to be on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s radar.
His efforts are currently focused on preventing Scotland breaking away from the Union, something that could happen as soon as May should the Scottish National Party (SNP) win a majority in the Holyrood elections.
The Labour Party’s Sir Keir Starmer appears to be more alarmed by the move towards independence in all devolved nations.
In a bid to quell this nationalistic fervour, he recently announced Labour’s plans to open a “constitutional commission” that would look to roll-out further devolution to all corners of the UK.
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Yet, Steven Fielding, Professor Professor of Political History at the University of Nottingham, told Express.co.uk that Sir Keir’s plans were not intended for Wales.
He said: “His plans are about Scotland, not Wales, and I don’t think Wales right now wants any more devolution.”
Prof Fielding added: “And there’s no serious call for independence in Wales at the moment.”
His comment is bitterly contended.
UK latest: Jobbins told Express.co.uk that he believed Wales would be independent within the decade
Even Wales’ former First Minister Carwyn Jones, who has several times spoken out against the idea of independence, told DW News in 2019 that: “We could stand alone, but the question is whether we should.
“I believe not. We are a partnership of four nations.”
Wales currently spends more than it raises, and has no track record of borrowing.
Mr Jones said that Wales exported 60 percent of its products to the EU’s single market, “but most of that is to England”, a point which he said meant Wales could be independent “by default”.
The rising opinion in favour of rejoining the EU in Wales could push voters towards Plaid Cymru and its leader Adam Price.
In his 2018 book, ‘Wales: The First & Final Colony’, Mr Price argued that Wales was, in fact, closer to Europe than it had ever been with England and the Union.
Drawing upon historical records with Wales and the continent, he wrote: “Wales and Europe have always been tightly woven together like a Celtic knot.”
Adam Price’s ‘Wales: The First and Final Colony’ is published by Y Lolfa.