Dr Sulien Morgan, at Cambria Nostra has some interesting thoughts on where we go from here and some pretty blunt things to say about the political expression of nationalism in Wales today. For me, some very similar thoughts were crystalized by the differing reactions of the nationalist parties in Wales and Scotland.
We are in a position where the Conservative Party is in chaos; those who found themselves unexpected victors of the campaign don’t even have a Plan A let alone a Plan B; and the Labour Party’s MPs have responded to Tory chaos by pushing their own party into meltdown. In Scotland, the SNP seizes the opportunity, and looks likely to achieve its aim of independence. In Wales, Plaid Cymru’s initial response seemed to be an offer to help Labour out by going into coalition. It would be hard to find a better example of the difference between the situation in Wales and that in Scotland.
However, things are still moving rapidly, and the later response from Plaid that it is now time to campaign for independence is a step in the right direction. I haven’t a clue what a “new union of independent nations” is, and I suspect that Plaid don’t either, as yet – it’s clearly something that needs a bit more work if it’s to be more than a slogan. But it’s a better response than the initial one.
It will be an uphill task to convince people that a party which said that Wales couldn’t afford to become an independent country when we were receiving large amounts of EU structural funding is seriously arguing that we can do exactly that once that funding is taken away. At the very least, it would seem to me to require some serious backtracking on much of what has been said in recent years.
It’s true though that Thursday’s vote is a game-changer, and opens out opportunities as well as problems. Sadly, given that Wales followed England in voting for Brexit, we’re not in the same position as Scotland in being able to argue that the people voted to stay in. However, 42.5% of the electorate did vote to remain, and the other 52.5% voted to “take back control” – there has to be a nationalist message which can bring together elements of both of those camps to create at least a basis for an independent Wales to seek membership of the EU anew at some future date.
The real change, though, is that what people thought they were voting for – a UK outside the EU – may no longer be an option. It would be dangerous to assume that Scotland will definitely become an independent nation; it’s far too soon for that, and there is much that could still change. I’m sure that I’m not alone in thinking that events have pushed Nicola Sturgeon into putting a second referendum on the table sooner than she would have preferred given the choice; and those who have changed their opinion following Brexit may yet have a further change of heart as events unfold. The situation in Ireland is also fluid. Whilst Sinn Fein have called for a border poll, it doesn’t look to me as though the conditions of the Good Friday agreement that would permit that – in essence, evidence that opinion on the border issue has changed – have yet been met. On the other hand, it is possible that the North of Ireland will yet seek a change in its status as the implications of Thursday’s vote become clearer.
Uncertainty reigns, but at some point, it’s entirely possible that Wales will have to face a choice between joining the world and remaining as a small appendage on the west of England, which is not at all the choice which was on the ballot paper last week.That is a real opportunity for a nationalist movement to make the case which has not been made for so long, and to start shifting opinion in Wales on the question of independence. The key word there, though, is ‘start’. We’re starting a long way behind Scotland, and whilst it looks possible that Scotland will be able to arrive at an answer in time to salvage its position within the EU, it has to be at least probable that Wales will be a decade or more behind. At a time when events are moving quickly, I’d love to be proved wrong; but we have been left with a lot of time to make up.