I’ve been a paying member of YesCymru for the past year, because I believe that Wales would have a better future as an independent nation. At the very least, people who live in Wales deserve a vote on independence. I have thoughts about the YesCymru message and how they can make a better case for independence.
Although the political party Plaid Cymru has branded itself as “The Party of Wales,” Welsh Labour has been in control of the Senedd Cymru (Welsh Parliament) since devolution in 1998. But, if you’ve visited Wales, you probably spotted YesCymru’s distinctive branding on red and white stickers. Until recently, there were several of these stuck to road signs in and around our village in North Wales.
YesCymru is a grassroots movement—not a political party—who campaign for Welsh independence. They’ve seen growth in membership and support since forming in 2014 and now have over 18,000 paying members. There’s a strong case for independence. But, YesCymru could make that case more emphatically and there’s something off with their messaging.
In Wales, nationalists are still in the minority at around 28 percent. But with clearer messaging about the benefits of independence and a better strategy for promoting those benefits, YesCymru could play a much greater role in turning that minority into a majority.
The YesCymru website could do a much better job of stating the benefits of independence and the benefits of membership. (But, I’ll save my thoughts on that for a follow-up post.)
The YesCymru Twitter account regularly criticises the failures of the UK government. This will please people who are already convinced about the benefits of independence, but will do little to convince unionists or reassure undecided voters. Many of these people fear what they’re told would be the negative impact of “leaving” the UK. The independence movement can make convincing arguments against anything alleged by unionists. But, in any independence campaign, these could easily be lost the same way as arguments against remaining in the European Union were during the Brexit campaign.
YesCymru needs to change the conversation from the negative connotations of “leaving” the UK to positive aspirations and hopes for a better future after independence. YesCymru doesn’t need to criticise the UK government, in fact it should ignore it entirely and regard it as irrelevant to the future of Wales. Their message should be that Wales can and will be a better place after independence. And proof of that can be seen in how Wales has done many things better than other UK nations since devotion.
Our children have had free school breakfasts since 2004. They haven’t endured SATS since 2005 and schools haven’t been ranked in league tables since 2001. Means-tested student grants have been reintroduced. Our over-60s pay nothing for bus travel and no one in Wales has paid prescription charges on medicines since 2007. During the recent pandemic, Wales succeeded in having the lowest rates of COVID infections in the UK.
Wales is a small country. It’s smaller than the state of New Jersey, but is still larger than Slovenia which is an independent country in the European Union.
Around three million people live in Wales, more than Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania which are also independent members of the EU.
Wales has a GDP per head of population which is higher than Spain. In fact, Wales would rank 66th in the world, ahead of Bulgaria, Belarus, Costa Rica, Serbia, and Uruguay.
The average wage in Wales is higher than all Baltic members of the European Union, Finland, and New Zealand.
The message from YesCymru and the wider independence movement in Wales should be one that inspires people to believe that Wales can have a better future as an independent nation. It should make people want to be part of that future. Not by saying “we want to ‘leave’,” but by saying “we want to ‘grow’.” We want to be a better, fairer, more prosperous country. And we can be.