Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The start of a process?

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.


H.M.Owen said...

"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."

There are similarities with the Scottish position, but the situation is - and always has been - different, so direct comparison is not always the best guide. In essence Wales needs to stop accepting external influence as a 'given' and become less passive in its response - in order to combat austerity, small government and create the conditions for a fairer and more equitable society - something that the majority in Wales can share, can we not? This is a question of confidence - as Scotland has discovered (and Iceland possesses in spades, it seems).

The current proposal for a union of nations is the very opposite of 'romantic' nationalism. The broken Westminster system creaks volubly - whether within the EU or not. UKIP is heading for power. The Labour Party is intent on throwing the Corbynist baby out with the bathwater (and will pay the price). In Wales there is an opportunity to move forward, but the strange silence of Carwyn Jones does not bode well ... let's hope he's been busy setting up secret deals all weekend ... but the ability to establish a meaningful political agenda now lies in an active engagement and not a timid, passive - and ultimately severely limited - defensive stance. Its not a time for seeking narrow party advantage and trying to reinstate the Tweedledum Tweedledee politics of the last 20 years.

Douglas Adams told us in precise detail what the answer to "life, the universe and everything" was (42). The referendum has given us an answer too - its our job now to work out the question ... as WE see it.

Anonymous said...

Good post, it’s a shame the welsh commentariat waited until now to point out the obvious problems with Welsh devolution and politics, the lack of economic levers, weak welsh media, lack of interest and connection between Cardiff Bay and voters and the ongoing wasting of EU money etc.

And as much as it hurts us who what independence Wales has always been an appendage of England, after the vote we really are in the last chance saloon. Its fight or die. As Dr Morgan said in his article Plaid Cymru can either be part of it or they can move out of the way and let some else try.

I was also surprised at how uncomfortable Leanne Wood was calling for independence yesterday; perhaps I shouldn’t be because Plaid Cymru’s leadership has been scared of their own shadows since the Cllr Seimon Glyn farce back in 2001.

DaiTwp said...

The union of independent states headline strikes me as odd especially as that is effectively what the UK is/was in the EU and are now leaving. But Plaid now seem to be calling for that on a British Isles level?
Heard Leanne Wood's interview on BBC Wales this morning and she did come across as wanting her cake and eat it, on one hand calling for independence and on the other calling for a redistribution of wealth within the "British Isles Union" and on a more generous level than we receive now!
The whole thing lacks credit and makes Plaid out to be a mockery and de-values the idea of Welsh independence. Plaid, unfortunately the only real face of Welsh nationalism, come across as so timid and confused sometimes it's embarrassing. With people like that leading the charge there's no hope.

Anonymous said...

What is embarrassing is the dramatic talk of Plaid "moving out of the way". For what? Otherwise good points being spoiled by the desire for writers to be dramatic.

If Plaid is talking about maintaining the common trade area and currency then fine. But no need to over egg the pudding.

To me as an observer it doesn't seem at all like the north of Ireland will reunify with the republic. If that doesn't happen, and Scotland doesn't become independent, Plaid will need to again adapt.

Let us keep perspective of where we are and the result which just happened before panning people.