The seeds of Welsh independence

welsh-poppies-160606

Growing grass roots support for Welsh independence, guerrilla gardening style…

According to a recent poll, a quarter of the Welsh population now support Welsh independence.

A quarter.

Just let that sink in…

Because you might have thought that it was only 3%. That is what the BBC would like you to think. Did you know that the BBC Charter was re-written last year to include ‘keeping the UK together’ as one of it’s core purposes?

Feel a bit anti-democratic at all?

Explain a lot? Like why they jump up and down about 3% but stay strangely silent about 26%?

But of course the 3% figure, so often quoted, is based on the age-old multi-option approach. Would you like Welsh independence? Or would you like other things instead, that include for instance things that sound a bit like independence, but maybe a bit more familiar and safe, like more powers for Wales.

It’s a bit like asking people to choose between chips and chocolate, or even which they would most readily give up, beer or alcohol. It doesn’t really make any sense, and it isn’t really measuring anything useful.

This new poll however, commissioned by YesCymru, asked two straight forward questions. Firstly, how supportive do people feel towards Welsh independence on a scale from 0-10 and secondly, how do they think they might feel in the hypothetical or not so hypothetical instance of an increased Tory majority come the 9th of June.

Not how they feel about Welsh independence compared to a jam and cheese sandwich, or their favourite sitcom, but just straight up on its own. Welsh independence, good idea or bad idea, on a scale of 0-10.

The results of this poll have been written about on the new English language online news site Nation.Cymru.

Also by Bella Gwalia (not currently censored by Twitter).

Even on Wales Online (I had to giggle at the term ‘YesCymru trolls’ in one of the comments….)

And of course by Roger Scully, in his usual style of a damp squib. I do sympathise with you Roger. It must be so demoralising constantly having to remain neutral and therefore being powerless to do anything to cheer yourself up about Wales’ prospects.

I’d invite you to a YesCaerdydd meeting, we could help you develop some fire in your belly and some hope for Wales’ future. But as this would probably compromise your Psephologists Code you’ll have to remain our very own slightly down-beat and increasingly pessimistic Welsh pollster.

If it’s any comfort, I no longer confuse you with Roger Quimbly.

So what next for Wales?

If it feels like I have skimmed over the details of that rather earth-shattering poll, that’s because I have, but please do go back and read one of those other articles – probably the Bella Gwalia post ‘Wales Could be Independent in a Generation‘ gives the best analysis of how these results change our understanding of public support for an independent Wales and of what that might mean.

Because this is big.

It’s really big, in a kind of latent, simmering, broiling with opportunity kind of a way. It’s like the pond in our garden, which actually is kind of small, and fairly new, and it feels like a bit of a stretch to think that there might be frogs. But they are there. You hear the splosh every time you go past to hang out the washing. You see ripples. You know they are there.

This poll is like the morning that you first go out and one of those frogs is just sat there, looking at you.

There’s a moment when you both blink.

And then you see that there are tadpoles too…

Because we’ve hardly done anything yet, let’s be honest? All the indywales campaign has done so far, is kind of throw a small idea-grenade into the discussion. Just lobbed the idea of independence out there, like a furtive kind of an ear-worm, to lodge in the consciousness of the Nation.

A bit like a seed-bomb, if you like.

Because right now Wales is probably more like our back lane than our pond. Slightly dilapidated, in need of some love and attention. But last year we chucked some wild flower seeds out there, which I’d forgotten about, and now there are Welsh poppies growing outside our back gate. And the other day I got chatting with Jason, who it turns out lives in one of the houses backing on to the lane from the other side, and Diane from up the road wants to do a clear-up together, and before you know it, we are sorting it out.

Time for some more seed-bombs.

Because contrary to the ‘official line on Welsh independence’ (we don’t want it, so don’t talk about it) actually Wales is very fertile ground for a grass roots, bottom up campaign like this one.

We are absolutely rife for a movement that gives us something to coalesce around, to build and create our own way out of poverty and design a better future.

We are so ready to have a conversation about how we might do democracy differently (as if we hadn’t been already, the ‘now you see her, now you don’t’ themed General Election campaign has pushed this farcical process to breaking point).

We are clever, we are resourceful, we are skilled, and we are ready to go.

And when you think about it, which a lot of people want you not to, that figure of a quarter of people in Wales, that’s pretty amazing. Because it’s still early days, and there’s so much more still to happen.

So much space for this movement to grow, so many directions for it to take.

And so on the other hand, I was not surprised by the poll results because the figures feel about right.

Because if you believe the 3% propaganda, which I think I did until less than a year ago, then you don’t talk about an independent Wales. You don’t bring it up in the pub, or chatting in the park with other parents when they mention something topical about politics, because it doesn’t feel like the done thing.

You worry that people might think you are a dreamer, or a Welsh Nationalist. Well now you can bring it up because it’s, well, in the news… Some of the news anyway.

But maybe, like Dafydd Trystan in this article entitled ‘Indycurious Wales’, you had a ‘hunch’. And once you do start to talk about indy, what you start to realise is that it’s not that way out there an idea after all.

I’ve noticed this with my own friends, many of whom have immigrated to Wales. They are the ones bringing up the subject of Welsh independence nowadays, not me, and they are increasingly positive towards the idea. Its also the case in Cardiff when we get out and do street stalls for YesCaerdydd, or when I do stuff like hang up a YesCymru banner across Womanby Street because I’ve got half an hour to kill before a meeting. Chances are that someone indyconfident is going to walk past you and strike up a conversation before you have even finished attaching the banner…

So once you kind of break the taboo, and just start putting it out there in a matter of fact kind of a way, for people to chew over for themselves, it starts to feel a lot less radical.

And so that is what YesCymru groups are doing at the moment. We are mostly small but growing groups of community activists, in far flung but connected places, like Dyffryn Nantlle and Cardiff, Aberystwyth and Conwy.

And we are all making seed-bombs for Welsh Independence.

If you have ever made a seed bomb, you will know that there isn’t a fixed recipe. There are certain things that help, like some soil, but what kind of seeds you add are up to you, so each one will be different.

And when you make seed bombs, you can either do it on your own, as a lone guerrilla gardener, and then wait for the results of your efforts to bloom the following spring, or you can get together with your friends and your neighbours, and you can exchange seeds.

So at the moment, this is what we are all doing, and this figure of 26% of people in Wales, this is really before any of what is happening at the moment has really come to flower.

Imagine next spring, and the next.

And I like this analogy because it feels like it resonates with natural cycles. I notice that I feel more hopeful in the spring. I spend more time with nature. I enjoy the garden, seek out meadows and am drawn to places with lots of trees. Lots of things feel possible when you see something that you planted, come into bloom. When you realise that your garden, which began as a barren square of concrete, flagstones and gravel, is now teeming with life.

You realise that gardens grow a little bit at first, and then more the next year and then there’s this point at which they kind of go ‘boom’. There’s a period of ‘bedding in’, and then once plants take root, growth can be staggering. And this is our third season in this garden. In not so very long, look how much has changed. The thing that staggers me the most, is how much it is teeming with life now, especially when you really get out there, if you lie on the grass and really peer into the flower beds.

Its a mini-beast jungle, as the children like to put it.

And the important thing I tell myself, is that in winter, it’s hard to see that it will be like this. It’s hard to believe that spring will be so multi-coloured, so lush, so full of exuberant hope. And so we busy ourselves with other things, no less important. We hunker down, and snuggle up, we make plans, and keep ourselves occupied.

And this looks now, as I sit in my garden, like such a good analogy for any movement for change. It feels like a big challenge to begin with, that square of concrete just looks too uncompromising. Maybe too big to tackle alone, especially with everything else you have going on. But then you decide to turn it into something fun, and invite all your friends over, and it’s surprising how much you get done in just one day.

How much everyone laughs. And how much they eat.

How good an idea it is to let go enough that everyone can be creative (to have a plan, but give people ownership so that they can shape what they are doing, in places just letting people take over and make it whatever they think it should be). That the rockery in the corner, which wasn’t even part of the plan, but just sort of happened, is now one of the best bits. That weirdly, even though everyone works really hard all day, in return for just food (have I mentioned there was lots of food?) afterwards, when you look back on the day, the thing everyone talks about is how much fun it was, and how much they enjoyed meeting each other and working together.

They all thank you for the garden day, even though they were doing you a favour and you were thanking them.

People still talk about how good that cream tea was.

And the Welsh independence movement is like that. Maybe it feels too big to do it on your own, but that’s OK because you don’t have to. Maybe you feel like you have to know more of ‘the facts’ or feel confident about economics, but that’s OK because I don’t either.

But I can bake scones (it’s easy, try it), and I bet someone who knows a lot about economics likes to eat them.

I bet you have bags of useful skills too, even if you haven’t thought yet that they might be relevant (one of my best friends is dabbling with lino tile printing to beautiful effect, I’ve dropped some hints that there’s an audience for indywales prints, watch this space…)

So why not get together with people in your community who are interested in change? It might be that what you actually do is something local, that you start to work out what you want your own place to be, what it would look and feel like if you were all more connected and confident and if your community felt empowered.

Maybe you’ll just start with some guerrilla gardening.

And slowly, all across Wales, we are growing something amazing.

You can find out more about YesCymru here, and you can start your own local branch in whatever creative way you choose, there’s no permission needed.

This movement belongs to everyone in Wales.

You can find out about how to make seed bombs here

 

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