A reader of this blog, Joe, asked me a question the other day. He said: “I was recently listening to the audio version of “The Economist” and heard an article about the Welsh vote on devolution. One of the article’s lead sentences was (I’m paraphrasing) : “On a cold day in Cardiff, it’s hard to catch any talk of devolution, and even harder to find anyone who cares much about it”.
Do you agree with this assessment? And if so, do you think there’s a historical or cultural aspect to why some people in Wales feel they way they do? (I’m curious because, if I lived in Wales, I think I would be very likely to have a strong opinion on the matter.)
I think that the perspective on Welsh devolution varies according to where an individual lives (including the US:). As you may have noted from my blog, southern Wales was ‘englishized’ from a very early period–very close to the conquest of 1066. Northwestern Wales, however, was conquered in 1282 and forcibly subdued. The English government moved English people into Wales in an attempt to dilute nationalist feeling–they had the most success in the south of Wales and the least in the north.
Thus, in Cardiff, the most anglicized city in Wales, I do believe (at times) you’d be hard pressed to find many votes for devolution. In Bangor, the story might be very different. And was, if the vote was any indication: “The biggest Yes vote came in the counties of Neath Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire, Gwynedd and Rhondda Cynon Taf where over 70% voted for greater devolved powers.” http://www.thefreshoutlook.com/
Welsh language surveys indicate that a higher percentage of Welsh speakers occurs in the north: “According to the 2001 census, 69% of Gwynedd residents are Welsh speakers. The number of Welsh speakers in areas across Gwynedd varies greatly, with the greatest percentage of Welsh speakers in the Caernarfon and Penygroes areas where the percentage is about 88%. The percentage decreases in the Bangor and coastal areas, especially along the Meirionnydd coastline, with the percentage of Welsh speakers in Tywyn as low as 40.8%.”
Surveys in the past had showed that 20-35% of the present-day population of Wales was in favor of increased independence. As it turns out, devolution (giving Wales the same status as Scotland and Northern Ireland) passed with 63% of the vote, a huge increase from 15 years ago.