Andrew Marr quizzes Adam Price on Welsh independence
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Nicola Sturgeon’s independence push will provide people in Wales with the inspiration to perform their own UK-breakaway, a leading Welsh separatist figure told Express.co.uk. It comes as a new poll suggested backing for independence among Welsh people is at a record high, serving as a warning for Westminster. Just under 40 percent of people in Wales who were asked said they would vote for independence if a referendum were held tomorrow.
They said this was based on their country having different social attitudes to the UK as a whole, as well as unhappiness with the way Prime Minister Boris Johnson had responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It surges past the previous 32 percent found in January, both polls carried out by ITV Wales.
The broadcaster’s most recent data comes in collaboration with Savanta ComRes pollster for a special programme, ‘UK: The End of the Union?’ that airs on ITV’s ‘Tonight’ show at 7:30pm.
Many believe Scottish independence is now inevitable, like Sïon Jobbins, chair of the independence campaign group YesCymru, who told Express.co.uk that people in Wales will “take inspiration” from Ms Sturgeon and push for their own separatist vote.
He said: “For a lot of people, yes it would be an inspiration: It looks like Sturgeon will win the Scottish Parliament with a majority in May, there will be a referendum in Scotland; it would be difficult for the SNP not to hold one.
“However, we’re asking people to be dispassionate about this.
“Even if they want independence but are not sure about it today, we’re asking people, ‘How will you feel once Scotland leaves the Union?’
“If people in Wales don’t have particularly strong feelings either way, when you ask them how they feel about Scotland leaving, that’s a different scenario.
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“To some extent, what people in Wales think of independence in one respect isn’t material.
“But the question is going to be there whether they want it or not: the whole future of the UK is up for debate, so the idea that people will put their head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening isn’t viable.”
In response to the new polling, Peter Main, the former Labour secretary of state for Wales, and Neath MP, said: “This is a grim warning to Boris Johnson that his cavalier hostility to Wales’ democratic rights and parliament risks tearing the UK apart.
“He has single-handedly transformed derisory levels of independence support into a threatening one.”
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Others, like Mick Antoniw, a Labour member of the Welsh Parliament, who is a leading proponent of a new “radical federalism” for the UK, said he believed Wales was moving into a new stage in its existence.
He told The Guardian: “I believe that now is the time for a Welsh ‘People’s Convention’ to engage the people of Wales in deciding what the future governance of Wales should be and our relationship with the rest of the UK. Failure to embrace real change will lead to the break up of the UK.”
It is worth noting that the 39 percent figures of the poll excludes “don’t know” answers.
The most frequently cited concerns surrounded the economic impact independence might have on Wales.
People were also wary of how their travel and work would be affected.
These fears are still prevalent among Scottish voters, meaning any independence vote could, in fact, tip in favour of the “No” to leaving the UK group in a referendum, claimed Robert Tombs, the renowned British historian.
Referencing data that suggest up to two thirds of people were dissatisfied with the EU before Brexit, he said: “But only just over half voted to leave because of the economic risks.
“It seems to me if you think that Scotland is similar, you’d have to have at least two thirds of the Scottish electorate saying they wanted independence before it became a serious prospect.
“As far as I know it’s only just over the 50 percent mark, and I can’t believe that’s anywhere near enough to make it happen when there’s already a serious campaign about it.”
While many in Wales feared economic repercussions, popularity for independence has nonetheless surged, especially during the pandemic.
For many years the number in favour of Welsh independence remained static at roughly 10 percent.
But polls in the last few months have consistently put it at at least a third.
Mr Jobbins said membership for YesCymru had similarly soared, from around 2,000 members in February 2020, to almost 17,000 today.
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