Welsh sing independence tune
7 Sep, 2011 05:26
Hope for a better country, but not as part of the United Kingdom. There is a strong sense of national identity in Wales, which has helped fuel calls for it to achieve independence, following similar calls further north in Scotland.
And yet the debate continues to rage over whether Welsh ambitions are driven by economic sense or pure emotion.Wales is a part of the UK and a proud nation, with its own language and customs. It is also the latest voice to call for independence. Plaid Cymru, which means the Party of Wales, has always argued the country would be better off without the UK, and it seems increasing numbers are starting to see their point of view.“Our economy has been run from London, with the interests and priorities of the South East of England to the fore. An independent Wales would be able to chart a different course, based on our needs and our priorities,” says Adam Price, research fellow at Harvard University Center for International development.Wales is a long way from declaring independence, but it is no longer just a pipedream. Its people voted overwhelmingly earlier this year in favor of handing the Welsh Assembly full law-making powers. That was considered a turning-point in Welsh nationhood. And Plaid Cymru have undoubtedly taken heart from the landslide victory of the Scottish National Party in May.That victory gave the SNP an outright majority in the Scottish Parliament, which has many powers devolved from Westminster. The party has promised to hold a Scotland-wide referendum on whether or not to declare independence.According to Plaid Cymru, that marks the turning of the tide of for a unified Great Britain.“People now, I believe, are beginning to use the word independence in a Welsh context, which they wouldn’t have done a few years ago,” says Jill Evans, a member of the party. “And as that debate develops, I think the people in Wales are going to see that when Scotland becomes independent, the next logical step is for Wales to become independent too.”Of course separatism is nothing new to the British Isles, and the thousands of victims of the troubles in Northern Ireland are testament to how high feelings can run, both present day and for centuries past. While national sentiment may not be a new phenomenon, the reasons for it have changed over the years. And in these current turbulent economic times money talks.Scotland has oil and gas. But while Wales was once a proud coal-producing nation, its mines are now closed, and it has some of the highest unemployment levels in the UK. Because of that, the older generation is reserved when it comes to independence. But young people are filled with national fervor. For them, independence is less about money, and more about nationhood and identity.“It does seem to be better here at the moment,” one Welsh woman tells RT. “We have free prescriptions, and education seems to be a bit better.”“We have a lot of culture that we shouldn’t forget about,” says another.Plaid Cymru says it is going to build on that support, providing not just emotional reasons why Wales should be independent, but concrete economic reasons too. It claims Wales does have resources, particularly land and sea for green energy. If the Scots vote for independence, Wales might not be far behind.