The Dream of Welsh Independence - Sarah Woodbury

The Dream of Welsh Independence

On December 11th, 1282, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd was killed amidst the conflict with Edward I.  Less than a year later, his brother, Dafydd ap Gruffydd, was hung, drawn, and quartered and dragged throught he streets of Shrewsbury–as final payment for what Edward perceived as the ultimate betrayal.  The two men had been as close as brothers, once, and ended in epic hatred.  In further retribution, Edward  took all the signs of office–the true cross, the scepter, the crown–of the throne of Wales for himself.  And he made sure his son, Edward II, was born at Caernarfon Castle (in 1284), so that Edward could name him the Prince of Wales.  The heir to throne of England has been called the Prince of Wales ever since.

It has been 731 years since 1282.  Is that too long a time to remember this?  Has too much time passed for Welsh people to think independence is a reasonable thing to ask?

A 2007 BBC poll reported that 20% of the people of Wales backed independence, while 70% did not; this is in comparison to Scotland, where 32% of the population supported independence from England.

The ‘Acts of Union’ were passed in 1707, by Scotland’s and England’s parliaments (Wales, of course, had no say in the matter).  When James VI of Scotland inherited the English crown after the death of Elizabeth I (1603) the two countries had been effectively joined, albeit with some resistance on the part of the Scots.  That resistance continued through the final defeat at Culloden in 1745, at which point the English did to the highland Scots what they’d done to the Welsh 500 years before.

The leader of the independence movement in Wales is Plaid Cymru, a political party.  They say their aims are:

1) To promote the constitutional advancement of Wales with a view to attaining Full National Status for Wales within the European Union.  2)  To ensure economic prosperity, social justice and the health of the natural environment, based on decentralist socialism.  3)  To build a national community based on equal citizenship, respect for different traditions and cultures and the equal worth of all individuals, whatever their race, nationality, gender, colour, creed, sexuality, age, ability or social background.  4)  To create a bilingual society by promoting the revival of the Welsh language.  5)  To promote Wales’s contribution to the global community and to attain membership of the United Nations.;lID=1

Of the sixty members of the Welsh National Assembly, the purpose of which (from their own web site) “is a democratically elected body that represents the interests of Wales and its people, makes laws for Wales and holds the Welsh government to account.”   There are 26 members of the Labour Party, 14 members for Plaid Cymru, 13 Welsh Conservative, and 6 Liberal Democrats.   Wales is led by a ‘first minister’ who is appointed by the crown (Queen Elizabeth), putting the Welsh Assembly on equal footing with Scotland within the three states that make up Great Britain.

The question for the Welsh boils down to two:  1)  what are the consequences of becoming independent?  and 2)  what are the consequences of not?

10 Replies to “The Dream of Welsh Independence”

  1. An interesting blog, I used to be very pro-british, a once Tony Blair fan 😛 but nowadays, with Scotland voting for independence next year, I look at what is it going to be for Wales? I am getting more used to Wales and Welsh identity, going abroad learning new cultures and people asking about England (when they trying to say Britain and Wales) I kind of have something that brings my heart close to Wales. I felt like being part of a hidden nation if you get me, a nation under a banner of a union. I felt that Welsh Labour has failed us, especially under Carwyn Jones, sad to see Rhodri gone from the spotlight… and the politicians of the Welsh Liberal Democrats and Tories seem to be more after the votes in my opinion, only have their leaders in Westminster at heart…And I am bored of the same rubbish from Westminster, it’s all talk.I don’t see Wales benefiting much from the union, it seems that policies are given to Wales just to shut the Welsh up. That’s just my opinion…

    I think a Welsh government that’s more federal with parties made in Wales would be more beneficial for the country, I feel that the unionist parties are biassed and know that their leaders in Westminster have the keys to what ever they say and how they rule their party.

    1. Thank you for commenting and sharing your thoughts. It’s a challenging situation and as an American, I hope for the best for Wales, whatever comes to pass!

  2. Wales as a political entity is very unlikely to gain independence any time soon, with most Welsh people and Political parties based in London as well as Cardiff and with a population that is made up mainly of the elderly, however, the Welsh identity remains rather strong, but there is a lack of motive for the Welsh people to gain independence from the Union, besides an independent Wales, as the Welsh economy and politics are so integrated with those of England and the rest of the UK.

    1. I don’t disagree. And it seems that Scotland’s upcoming referendum doesn’t have as much support as it did when the economy was better.

  3. Hi I am welsh born and bred and the discussion on welsh independence amongst the welsh has greatly dropped in importance in recent years, mainly for economic reasons. Wales has large rural areas and does not have a large manufacturing base or its own industry as it previously had with coal production. In addition, many areas of Wales have a high unemployment rates with 2/3 generations of people living on state benefits. Unfortunately Wales has suffered, especially in the North from lack of development and in being unable to attract employers to the areas. Most people in Wales currently realise that financially Wales could not support itself independently just on the basis of welsh taxation. What Wales needs is a long term plan to attract more employment, develop more airports, especially in the North and develop more innovative ways of attracting money and development to the area. This is something that is going to take a long time, generations really. Scotland has something Wales does not have and that sea oil industry which brings in large revenue. For centuries Wales has been the poor relation in the United Kingdom and now with the Welsh Assembly hopefully these long term plans can be developed further. Maybe one day in the future Wales can be independent but it will always be interconnected with England you can’t get away from that and to become internalised and isolated is not the way forward either. Many of our problems, especially in the past came directly out of welsh law, especially Inheritance law where kingdoms were broken down time and time again until they was one Kingdom. The idea of Wales as an entity is really a modern one and one that briefly shone for a short time under various Princes. but it only really happened under the English, because the welsh could not hold it together because of competing claims to land and constant inter fighting. but prior to these times Wales was a series of small kingdoms ruled by various Princes. As much as I am extremely proud if my welsh heritage it must be said we made a lot of our own problems in the past and paid a heavy price for it. Now we are identified as Wales and that is the first step and we must move to develop our country so that it can become independent, but we cannot rush it, we must learn from history that what we cannot hold, we lose and economically Wales cannot hold Wales at the moment but what we can do is plan and put in place our dream for the future of Wales.

    1. Your insights are absolutely right and you have identified the problems with Welsh independence, including the historical context. Thank you so much for commenting!

  4. I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, evidence shows that when countries separate, even if with the intention of remaining close, their trade with each other suffers. On the other hand, I get wanting to be independent as well.

    I’m also not sure how I feel about anyone wanting to join the EU right now :-/

    1. In some ways, I’m glad I’m a spectator in this. Having been to Wales recently, I understand the desire of many Welsh people to be independent from England. On the other hand, it’s a huge step.

  5. Good to be back commenting after so long! I think that by now it’s going to to be rater difficult to separate from Britain now, even though its my hope that it does. Remember 800 years i enough to count even foreigners as natives, no matter what you feel about them. And also Europe is no longer full of warring, allying, and developing countries anymore. If Wales does become independent, it will have to fend for itself. There will be no close or immediate allies to back them up( though perhaps Ireland might).

    1. Independence is highly problematic, no doubt. An article from a few days ago said that if Scotland goes, Wales will too, but public sentiment for independence there is the lowest it’s been in years. When the economy isn’t good, going it alone doesn’t sound like as much of a good idea.

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