In the coming weeks, the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Nicola Sturgeon, is expected to reveal how her party intends to hold another independence referendum in 2023.
The first referendum held in September 2014, was hailed as a “once in a generation” opportunity and despite the result, the outcome saw 45% of people in Scotland back independence.
Since then, numerous polls suggest a gradual increase in support for independence north of the border, with some hitting over 50%. Furthermore, Scottish local and Holyrood elections have returned an SNP majority each time.
Whether or not a majority for independence exists in Scotland, the political landscape across the UK seems to be shifting.
In May, Sinn Fein won a historic victory, overcoming the DUP to become the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly for the first time since the country’s formation in 1921.
Here in Wales, an ITV Wales and Savanta ComRes poll reported a record 39% support for Welsh independence in March 2021 (excluding “don’t knows”), with participants citing that they felt Wales has different social attitudes to the UK and is historically, a separate nation.
You Gov also reported last week, that with “don’t knows” removed, 33% would vote yes in a referendum on Welsh independence.
Whatever the cause of shifting dynamics in UK politics, it seems that the pandemic has shone a light on the different approaches of the four UK constituent nations over the last two years.
Only last week, we highlighted that all four of Wales’ Police and Crime Commissioners have called for the devolution of justice due to the way that policing and criminal justice was delivered during the pandemic in Wales.
Recognising the changing dynamics perhaps, Welsh Labour called for the establishment of a constitutional commission to address the future of Wales in their 2021 manifesto.
Although the pledge included a promise to “work for a new and successful United Kingdom, based on far-reaching federalism”, the commission (which includes proponents of independence, Leanne Wood and Laura McAllister), has vowed to consider all eventualities, including independence.
This is a real opportunity for the people of Wales to have their say on the country’s future, and in forming our conclusions, we should consider the impact that Scottish independence and potential Irish reunification will have on Wales.
Even with greater devolved powers, many areas of Welsh politics and jurisprudence will remain outside the domain of Welsh Government – broadcasting, the Crown Estate, energy generation and the cancelled Swansea tidal lagoon project being prime examples.
Furthermore, a “federal” UK opens the possibility for the largest country of the UK to be outvoted on a number of issues by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Such a scenario does not seem workable and may risk further divisions across the UK. Moreover, it is likely that the UK Government will still be able to remove power or veto proposals.
The examples of Iceland, Ireland, Latvia and Estonia show Wales is not too small to be independent, or successful. In the “Flotilla Effect”, Ben Levinger and Adam Price argue that had Wales been independent since 1990, the Welsh economy would be 39% larger than it is today.
We urge all our followers to consider these issues and to complete the consultation which is available on the Welsh Government website. The consultation closes on the 31st July.
Further resources are available in the “Independence in your pocket” booklet on Yes Cymru’s website.
This is an article written by Maria Pritchard of Yes Milford Haven and published in the Pembrokeshire Herald newspaper on 01.07.2022