Six to seven thousand people attended the latest March for Independence, held on Saturday 20 May in Abertawe / Swansea. The march, organised by YesCymru and AUOB (All Under One Banner) Cymru, was the first of this year and was a huge success, with the sun shining on Swansea and the Indy movement.
This was the sixth march to be held across Wales under the aegis of the YesCymru movement, now in its seventh year and growing strongly and consistently. Crowds gathered for the Indy Market at the Waterfront prior to coming together on Wind Street to create a procession through the heart of Swansea. There was an excellent local turnout alongside supporters from far and wide, including a supportive Scottish contingent.
The world needs Welsh values
Speaking at the rally after the march, Robin McAlpine, founder of Scotland’s Common Weal, said: “Wales and Scotland can’t spend the rest of their days being an afterthought for a Britain in crisis. We’re more than a holiday home destination or a place to keep your nukes. We deserve better than hoping that whatever is good for London isn’t bad for us, because it’s always about what is good for London. That’s why I’m so happy to see our two movements work together to change our own futures.”
In his speech, Welsh author Mike Parker emphasised the essential role Wales has to play internationally: “The world needs Welsh values – strong community, kindness, sustainability – and it needs them on the widest possible stage. It’s as simple as that. This country has so much to share … But that cannot be until we have found our own voice and are able to use it. No amount of tinkering around the edges of the current settlement will give Wales its real voice. The UK has shown time and time again that it cannot and will not reform itself. Wales needs independence … our neighbours in these islands need an independent Wales, the wider world needs an independent Wales.”
Naomi Hughes of YesCymru, bravely stepping up to face a crowd of thousands in her first ever public speaking role, emphasised that Wales must be ambitious, brave, and confident in its journey to independent nationhood: “If Slovakia can be independent, why can’t we? If Lithuania can be independent, why can’t we? If Luxembourgians can be independent, why can’t we? And if Iceland, with a population only 30% greater than Swansea itself, can be independent, why can’t we? We must seize a collective ambition to make this positive change to the future of our nation and the generations to come. To build a fair and tolerant society for everyone in Wales, North, South, East, and West.”
Increasing support for Welsh independence
Recent polling suggests that support for Welsh independence is again on the rise, with the Redfield and Winton tracker poll placing it at 36% in the past week. This is a seismic shift in public opinion within Wales, where support for independence was as low as 5% less than a decade ago.
Additionally, in a recent YouGov poll commissioned by YesCymru, Welsh residents were asked if they would support or oppose Welsh management of Crown Estate assets in Wales, with all income accruing to Wales. The result was overwhelming, with over 75% expressing a preference in favour of full Welsh control of these assets. Polling was conducted for YesCymru by YouGov from 28 April to 3 May 2023.
Gwern Gwynfil, CEO of YesCymru, said: ‘Let’s remember that it’s only last year that the then-Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart, told the House of Commons that there was ‘no public appetite at all in Wales to devolve the Crown Estate’. How long must we allow Westminster to pull the wool over our eyes? How long must we tolerate the extraction of Welsh wealth whilst they tell us that we are too poor to go it alone? In an independent Wales all that is ours will be under our control.”
He added: “It is long past time for Wales to see through the lies and deception, the exploitation and abuse, the subservience of our place within this Union. I believe that anyone, whatever their background and whatever their politics, who considers the facts and the arguments with an open mind, will soon persuade themselves that Wales and the people who live here will be better off when we become an independent nation.”
Members of YesCymru Abertawe pulled out all the creative stops to publicise the Indy March in their city on 20 May. Talented members created GIFs, graphics, and guerrilla yarn bombing to get the word out. Chair of the Abertawe / Swansea branch, Rose Davies, herself an artist, explained: “Swansea is an immensely creative and cultured city, and has a terrific sense of humour and social justice. We wanted this march to focus on poverty but also to mix up the serious with the, frankly, plain daft, to get the message out there.”
The yarn bombing group grew from an idea earlier in the year, when some knitters and crocheters were making hats and scarves for two local food banks that are supported by YesCymru Abertawe, and had a think about what to do in the better weather. Yarn bombing struck a chord, and members Rhiannon Barrar, Lindsay Thomas, Kat Watkins, and Kathryn Murphy, along with Canadian visitor May Stewart, have produced bunting, postbox covers, bollard hats, and tree banners.
Graphic designer Nigel Cousins designed a series of GIFs for social media called ‘Thank You Swansea’, a sarcastic reference to the complete lack of regard given to the city and to Wales by the government in Westminster. He said, “I wanted to show clearly how we in Swansea are being neglected and even ripped off by the Westminster Government.” Cousins also designed logos for members with disabilities who led the 20 May march on electric scooters and wheelchairs. Rose Davies explained, “Poverty isn’t just about money, it’s also about lack of opportunities, facilities, and even the chance to take part in society. YesCymru Abertawe’s focus on poverty very much includes our disabled members.”
Everyone in Swansea has their own seagull story to tell. Writer and filmmaker Melvyn Williams chose the iconic seagull to walk the route of the March on social media week by week leading up to 20 May. Williams said, “I came up with the idea of a blinged-up seagull strutting around the city in a goldie-looking chain and a big YesCymru medallion. It’s an iconic look and people seem to love it.” The Swansea Seagull has been teasing local people with little quizzes about his location.
YesCymru Abertawe even has its own flag. “We’re privileged to have a design by the renowned graffiti artist SOK (Son of Ken) and we use it extensively,” Rose Davies explained. It’s not just on flags, which flew at the Independence March, but is also used also for branch publicity, like a digital advert for a fringe event. “The creative output of our members in such a short time has been brilliant,” says Davies, “and we’re hoping to go into the summer in Swansea with loads more.”
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