As a ‘Cymro’ from Ynys Môn it’s unsurprising that someone like myself secretly hopes for an independent Wales. It was a reoccuring theme through the mainstay of my Welsh language and History classes. This is not the norm in Wales, but with a small population of around seventy thousand with 70% Welsh fluency rates it seemed to cater to our humours. Most of South, North West and Central Wales are predominantly English speaking and pursue their education in this medium. Whilst they feel the same affinity and distinctiveness towards their nation, their cultural similarities are much more in tune with the Midlands and Northern England than the seemingly ‘archaic’ West Wales.
Only 3% of the Welsh population desire independence. If we take the population of Welsh speakers, predominantly advocates of independence, at around 27% of the population, it is clear that the desire an ambition actually isn’t there. It’s true that there is no better Welshman than one who is outside of Wales as Rhiannon Cosslett maintains in her Guardian article from 2014. All the points are there. The Meibion Glyndwr, the ‘true’ capital of Caernarfon being undermined by English second-home owners, the casual racism. None of these are surprising to someone who has been brought up in this culture. The article published around the time of the Scottish Referendum highlights the supposed ‘Stockholm syndrome’ the Welsh are currently facing.
I agree that the Welsh speaking population has grown apathetic towards their own culture in recent years. It has stagnated, and whilst the rest of the world has adapted towards the internet revolution, Welsh language mediums online do not represent the varying cultural and linguistic divides of North and South wales. Relying heavily on the linguistic and isolating factors of Southern Welsh dialect, S4C and other promoters of the Welsh language for younger audiences risk alienating colloquial speakers of North Welsh. Rather than an issue of standardisation, it should be forwarded as an embracement of diversity amongst the distinct locales.
Young Welsh-Speaking individuals need to embrace the appeal of social media in order to facilitate this trend amongst their peers, or risk the dominance of English-language online. There are a few notable cases, namely the ‘Sali Mali’ Facebook page garnering consistent likes in the high hundreds per post. Within social media there is hope for the maintenance of colloquial Welsh alongside the standaridsed version spoken in the classroom of most North-West-Welsh schools.
Then where does Brexit fit in to this? Whilst there was almost no fanfare or revival after the Scottish Referendum, there may be a chance for Welsh nationalism to develop from this vote. The abuse of Welsh speaking individuals around the country may result in a surge of hostility in the heartlands, but this is unlikely to surge into an independence movement. It may be that an eventual Scottish independence will energise Welsh speaking regions of Wales to vote for an independent West, distinct from the English dominated East. But, with Ynys Môn deciding to go against the best wishes of the Welsh language by voting ‘Leave’, the lack of EU funding will keep this a nationalists pipe-dream.
Whilst hardship would be great for the development of a stronger Welsh cultural identity, the 3% speak volumes on practicality. The economy is currently non-existent. We rely on tourism, farming and the service sector for the mainstay of our economic ties to the rest of the UK. A possible avenue for the future would be becoming forerunners of clean energy, taking advantage of our long coastline for the development of wind, wave and tidal energy. Perhaps we could take the technological route, providing opportunities for web and game developers who decide to open shop. Who knows where Wales will take its economy, but without a stable one, the 3% is likely to remain a 3%.
References https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/sep/24/3-per-cent-back-welsh-independence https://www.facebook.com/SaliMaliCYW/?fref=ts https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/26/welsh-nationalist-wales-independence https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/nov/08/wales-poverty-report-joseph-rowntree-uk-eu