THIS week Reporter Tomos Povey interviewed two sides of the Welsh independence debate.

Below is what both sides had to say.

For Welsh independence.

ONLY Welsh independence can unleash the country’s “true potential”—this is the message being voiced by a group advocating severing Welsh links with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Yes Cymru Pont-y-Pwl is a branch of the YesCymru organisation which was launched in 2014 to further the cause of Welsh independence.

Its members have participated in many pro-independent marches, including one held last month in Caernarfon, which was reported to have attracted thousands of supporters.

Rhisiart Morgan, who was raised in Pontypool, has been a member of the Pontypool branch for many years.

South Wales Argus:

(Yes Cymru Pont-y-Pwl members.)

He believes independence will be achieved in his lifetime because of a rise in disenchantment with Westminster.

He said: “I originally got involved in the group because I did not think Westminster worked for us.

“I belong to no political party. I probably vote for Plaid Cymru because the other parties do not represent Wales at all.

“We are also totally ignored by Westminster – just look at Brexit.

“I think the breakup of Britain will happen, as well as the breakup of north and southern England. More and more people can see how we are being treated by Westminster and are getting fed up of it. People are losing faith with Westminster.

“How have we actually benefitted from the British union? We have been dragged along all the way.”

Other group members claimed to have witnessed a surge in support for independence throughout Gwent in recent years.

They named Brexit, as well as other factors, as a major cause for why the public is questioning the status quo.

Dai Ashley said: “For me, I started to support independence after reading about our history. I always thought England looked after us but when you look into it they don’t. The country tried to destroy our culture.

“We could be doing so much better. Having independence will allow us to choose our own destiny. “Despite losing our independence, there has always been a hunger for us to gain it again, from Owain Glyndwr to the Chartists.

“More and more people are asking about independence – a big factor for this has been Brexit.

“The EU has always helped us – especially in the Valleys. The British union hasn’t helped us – it’s all about taking and taking. People know this.

“Wales would flourish outside Britain. Cardiff is like a little London."

South Wales Argus:

(Members of the pro-independence waving flag.)

Darren Waters, also from Pontypool, echoed similar sentiments, saying: “I am a working-class man. When I was growing up there were no prospects here. It was like we were destined to be poor.

“I always thought it was normal for these areas to not prosper. But when you get older you start to question stuff.

“It got to a point where I thought there must be something better for us. And for me, that is independence.

“The theory we are too small to go in alone is rubbish. Some of the top economies in the world have populations of under 10 million.

“We have seen a lot of interest in our group in recent years. I know people have joined us because they do not want to leave the EU.

“Others have joined us because of what is happening in our communities. Take food banks. We should not have them, but we do. There is another root to make things better and that is independence.”

And another member, Christopher Ashley, added: “Look at the modern statistics and we do not need to be part of Britain anymore.

“I have seen a rise in this area for people wanting independence.”


If independence became a reality, some of the branch members expressed a desire for Wales to become a republic and retain its EU membership.

But one member, Christopher Ashley, argued that EU membership was “irrelevant”, saying:

“I know a lot of people have joined us hoping for us to stay in the EU.

“Brexit is irrelevant for me at the moment. I know it will impact us, though.

“I want to be out of the EU and Britain. But as long as we get to govern ourselves, I do not care.”

Wales’ “true potential” can only be reached by breaking away from the UK, the group then argued.

In fact, Mr Morgan believed an independent Wales would “flourish” and highlighted the country’s vast supplies of water which could generate significant revenue.

“Water could be a huge market for us,” he said. “We are the fifth-largest producer of energy in the world.

“If we had our own grid and sold it to those who want it, they we would make a huge sum.”

And Stefan Ap Brien, who is also a member, added: “Water will be the new oil.

“Wales just needs to believe in itself. We would do very well as an independent nation.

“We can do this and need to become independent.”

Against Welsh independence

Wales has “helped shape the world” and will continue to “punch above its weight” so long as it remains a part of the fifth largest economy in the world—these are just some of the arguments being aired by leading campaigners against Welsh independence.

Rachel Banner is a teacher-turned-activist and has been at the forefront of opposing Welsh independence and the current form of devolution for several years.

It was when she returned from a spell in Italy in 2007 that she felt the Welsh Assembly “was not delivering for the people”.

South Wales Argus:

(Rachel Banner in Pontypool.)

And as a result, Ms Banner founded the pressure group True Wales, which advocates devolved powers being transferred to local authorities, rather than to Cardiff Bay.

In a previous interview, Ms Banner, who is from Pontypool, said: “Our message [in the 2011 referendum] was that if the Assembly took on full law-making powers it would be a slippery slope to separatism.“Any future referendum is likely to be on independence. We will be ready for that fight.”

Her position has not altered.

“Wales has a proud and patriotic sense of identity, but 20 years of devolved Welsh politics has shown that trying to isolate Wales from the rest of the UK doesn't work when it comes to best economic, social, health and educational outcomes,” she said.

“Wales has helped shape the world by being a part of Britain and we retain considerable soft power worldwide which we wouldn't as a small and inward-looking state.

“Across the UK, we share a common identity forged by centuries of shared experience. When we all pull together in times of crisis, most of us experience that reassuring sense that we are greater than the sum of our parts.”

South Wales Argus:

(Rachel Banner launching the True Wales pressure group.)

The Oxford-educated teacher named the NHS as an example of what can be achieved when all four parts of the UK work collaboratively.

The impact the fragmentation of Britain could have on the Welsh NHS is one of many reasons why she is opposed to it.

“Wales made an essential contribution to the NHS legacy,” she said.

“Our own Aneurin Bevan was the British Minister for Health when the NHS was established in 1948.

“Others across the UK played a part in the evolution of the NHS, too. Sir William Beveridge’s Report of 1942 had paved the way for the modern welfare state by identifying the “five giants” that needed to be slain before Britain could enjoy true social prosperity: want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness.

“Serious questions would arise if Wales were to separate from the UK. What would happen to cross-border healthcare? Many Welsh patients travel from Mid Wales and Monmouthshire to Hereford and Shrewsbury, and from North Wales to Cheshire, Liverpool and Manchester.

“Under independence, would we still have access to specialised healthcare facilities in England? How much would that cost? How would a Welsh Government be able to provide the same life-saving variety of care to a population of three million people?”

And when questioned on what the economy would look like in an independent Wales, Ms banner claimed the country “simply doesn’t have the tax base” to go it alone.

She said: “What currency would nationalists propose we use on leaving the United Kingdom? How would they resolve the £13 billion deficit in Wales’ public finances? Under devolution, our GVA per head is the lowest in UK at 72.9 per cent of the UK figure. Does that performance equip us for independence?

“Social security spending is £670 higher per person in Wales. Overall, public spending in Wales is 108 per cent of the UK-average. What’s the plan for filling this fiscal deficit?

“There’d be no transition. On day one, we’d be £13 billion down.

“We’d also need to consider the logistics of transporting goods. The manufactured goods we import and export come through Folkestone or Dover. Nationalists might say we could import goods to Cardiff, but we’d lack the economies of scale. Prices would be much higher.

“There simply isn’t the tax base in Wales to sustain a separate economy.”

She also dismissed claims that an independent Wales would result in more efficient politicians, saying: “Nationalists often claim independence would result in better governance.

“Would Members of the newly autonomous Assembly reject the gravy train mentality? Their recent acceptance of an 18 per cent pay rise casts doubt on that notion.”

Pro-independence groups have argued that they have witnessed a surge in support for independence in South East Wales due to the Brexit vote.

But Ms Banner said this should not be used as a reason to pull out of the United Kingdom.

“If they try to use Brexit as a reason for independence, I’d also ask whether we really need to be creating more division at a time of so much existing political division and whether we want to convert normal political debate into a primarily nationalist vs unionist debate as in Northern Ireland and now Scotland,” she said.

“It’s also the case that the United Kingdom is far more important to our economy than the EU and yet even leaving the EU is proving very difficult.”

Over the years True Wales has attracted many members.

One of those included Cllr Nigel Dix, who represents the Blackwood ward on Caerphilly County Borough Council.

The independent councillor described himself a “committed unionist” and expressed his hope independence would never occur.

South Wales Argus:

(Cllr Nigel Dix is opposed to Welsh independence.)

“Wales does punch above its weight by being part of the fifth largest economy in the world,” he said.

“The union between England and Wales has not always been perfect, but it has been mutually beneficial.

“The UK is the fifth largest economy—taking ourselves out of that would be a deluded act of self-harm. Wales would be at the mercy of a far bigger English economy who would see and treat Wales as an economic rival.

“Reality is that an independent Wales is not in the best interests of Wales or indeed the UK. I am a passionate believe in the union.”

Most polls conducted have found that Welsh independence is favoured by a minority. A BBC Wales poll carried out six months ago, estimated seven per cent favoured separation.