March 29, 2011 by

Welsh Independence (part . . . 227?)


Categories: Research, Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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.”

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%.”

The Welsh Language – 2001
  Poopulation aged 3 and over Understands spoken Welsh Speaks Welsh Reads Welsh Writes Welsh Either speaks, reads or writes Welsh
    Number % Number % Number % Number % Number %
Gwynedd 112,800 77,966 69.1 77,846 69.0 72,276 64.1 69,264 61.4 79,184 70.2
Wales 2,805,701 661,526 23.6 582,368 20.8 567,152 20.2 495,519 17.7 659,301 23.5 

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.

2 Responses to Welsh Independence (part . . . 227?)

  1. siebendach

    Thank you Sarah — what you are saying appears obvious in hindsight, but it honestly would not have occurred to me without your explanation.

    I think a lot of Americans think of Wales as being too small to have internal differences from region to region. How silly. I suppose such differences naturally result from differing historical experiences.

    • Sarah Post author

      I truly don’t know if Wales could survive as its own country. It struggled with it 800 years ago. My husband works for the Umatilla Tribe here in Oregon and it is amazing how many of the same histories/issues occur in both places, despite the vast cultural differences. Thanks for commenting.

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