THE CAUSE of Welsh Independence stepped up another level today after 10,000 people came together in a rally in Cardiff.
The centre of the city was awash with colour and independence supporters from all parts of Wales, despite the restrictions in place because of the rail strike called for today.
With that figure being 3,000 higher than in an equivalent rally in Edinburgh, it could be suggested that Wales now has the “big mo” in the independence stakes.
And a sense of faith and optimism in the cause which may even be higher than in Scotland, still scarred as they are by losing their independence vote in 2014.
Perhaps the actual speeches today didn’t match up to some speeches delivered in previous rallies, but even that did not seem to be that much of an issue, in view of the brilliant optics provided by such a well-attended and colourful occasion in our capital city.
There’s no doubt the independence rally today was very well timed after such a tumultuous week in UK politics.
We first saw the unprecedented example of the Bank of England having to step in to pump £65 billion of liquidity into the whole system after a Tory budget which saw the worth of the pound plunging to the floor.
The sense of the Tories losing the room completely was then intensified with an opinion poll which saw them up against a 33% Labour lead in the polls.
If replicated at the next election, that could see them facing a wipeout on the scale of the Canadian Conservatives in 1993, who in one election went from being the government to having just two seats in the country’s parliament. It was predicted that on those polling figures the Tories could expect to win at most three.
And in a Welsh context, we also heard yesterday about the ground-breaking study by Irish economist John Doyle which estimated that Wales’s fiscal gap (i.e. the gap between monies raised here and monies spent here) is only £2.6 billion – a sum much less than the often-quoted estimate of £13.5 billion, always used as a tool to tell people that Wales couldn’t afford Independence.
A spokesperson for Gwlad said there was a palpable sense of change in the air, and that today’s Independence rally was perhaps the most important one held yet.
“It’s about riding the wave of change, and about showing that, this time, Wales has got to take advantage of the swell herself, rather than being at the mercy of potential changes introduced at Westminster” he said.
“We’ve all heard British Labour’s promises of change in the past – Tony Blair being a prime example – but by now, we have got to realise that for any real, lasting change here, we have got to do things for ourselves”
The spokesperson added that the study of Wales’s £77 billion economy could be a game-changer in the whole discussion about Independence.
Since the figures quoted by the economist about Wales’s real fiscal gap – which would equate to about 3% of its GDP – would be similar to that of many other independent nations and not significantly bigger than that of the UK itself.
“People have long been unaware of the fact that the Welsh economy, although there’s obviously room for improvement, is actually comparable to other small European nations” he said.
He said that Gwlad – The Welsh Independence Party – was particularly pleased to see such a renewed emphasis placed on the economy.
“This element has perhaps been neglected over several years, but of course it is crucial to the prospects for Welsh Independence, and as a party we put a huge emphasis on this dimension” he said.
He added that even the heated discussion yesterday on pensions, and the suggestion that the UK would still continue to pay pensions in an Independent Wales was still very welcome.
“It’s high time we started to focus on the bread-and-butter issues of independence, rather than shying away from them.”
“People in Wales will rightly expect the Independence movement to have proper answers to thorny questions about pensions and the like, so it’s essential that this debate is started right now” he said.
In Scotland today, there was a renewed emphasis on an independence referendum, with the SNP having pencilled in a potential date at the polls for October next year.
Scotland is Scotland, but Wales is Wales, and as a party, Gwlad do not think that we have to follow their example entirely concerning the necessity, or even the desirability, of holding an equivalent referendum here in Wales.
“We always have to remember the fact that of 62 nations who have gained their independence since 1945, only one of them, Malta, actually achieved that by means of a referendum” he said.
“All of the other nations declared independence in their national parliaments, after their pro-independence parties managed to win a majority in those parliaments”.
He said that this was the option that Wales should aim for, hopefully by the 2025 Senedd, but perhaps more realistically, the 2030 Senedd.
“These next few years will give us an opportunity to build up the case for independence and build up the kind of institutions we will need to become a successful independent nation.”
Today was a hugely spectacular statement about Welsh Independence.
But as effective and morale-boosting such rallies are, it is also true that the most important mission for the whole movement is to persuade ordinary people about the merits of the cause.
It was pleasing to see YesCymru Chief Executive, Gwern Gwynfi emphasizing this point and outlining his plans to initiate such conversation on a national level from now on.
Perhaps the movement could now adapt a popular slogan from some years back: “It’s good to talk”