Refugee says Welsh independence chance to stop growing enmity towards migrants

Writing in a new book, an African refugee says that independence for Wales is an opportunity to stop the ‘increasingly hostile atmosphere towards migrants’.
The arguments are made by campaigner Joseph Gnagbo in a collection of articles published by Melin Drafod – a think tank which says it is drawing up a progressive agenda for an independent Wales.
The new book is published ahead of the UK Government’s new Illegal Immigration Bill coming into force. According to the Refugee Council, the controversial legislation could lead to up to 190,000 migrants being locked up or forced into destitution, along with 45,000 children.
Among the other people who have written for the book which will be launched at the Eisteddfod next month, are YesCymru Board member Naomi Hughes, Senedd Member Sioned Williams, poet Eric Ngalle Charles, LGBTQ+ historian Norena Shopland, former Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price, lawyer Emyr Lewis and actress Carys Eleri.
In his article in the book entitled ‘(More) Imagining an Independent Wales’, Joseph Gnagbo says that there is: “… a vicious circle between the increasingly hostile atmosphere towards migrants and the tendency of policy makers to implement stricter migration rules. By implementing its vision of a Sanctuary Nation, and I can confirm that based on my personal experience, Wales continues to be an exception in Europe in terms of hospitality. This choice is ambitious and historic in a world where economic austerity and social pressure are continually increasing and Wales is no exception in this regard. Child poverty, the aging of the population, inequality in terms of access to hospital services and regional inequality which causes rural exodus, the challenges are numerous.
Joseph, who is also a campaigner with Cymdeithas yr Iaith, adds: “Certainly, Wales does not need to be perfect, but realising the vision of a sanctuary nation definitely requires that the country ease its economic and social pressures. To this end, nothing is better than a thriving economy and a vibrant culture. In this respect the country has significant potential. A living language to promote Welsh culture and identity… and the national [sports] teams bring people together across different social groups improving community spirit. Welsh people are known for their warmth, their friendship, and their strong sense of unity.”
In her article, Naomi Hughes from YesCymru says: “At the top of my wish list, so to speak, is to live in a tolerant, fair nation where equity of opportunity leads society. A country where colour, gender, identity, religion or anything else does not stop you or limit what you can achieve or influence the way you are treated. Wales should be a home for everyone who chooses to make it their home and they belong to the nation and the nation belongs to them.
“Also, I strongly believe that an independent Wales has a duty to address economic injustice in our country. I don’t want to live in a country with areas where over 40% of our young people live in poverty, and this is where I see ambition as the core of our future. We need to create a country with opportunities for our young people across a range of different areas. We should appreciate the ability and contributions of our young people, whether in the musical world, in the world of the arts, science, sport or the economic world. A mature and confident country has broad visions of what represents success and Wales must not follow narrow paths of thinking that limit the country’s potential.”
Speaking ahead of the publication of the book, Melin Drafod Chair Talat Chaudhri said:
“The articles in the book demonstrate a clear yearning for a campaign for inclusive, progressive independence. There is perhaps no clearer example of the brutality of the UK union than its current immigration policies. As Joseph argues so forcefully, we have an opportunity in an independent Wales to formulate a completely different policy based on the work already underway to create a Nation of Sanctuary.
“The contributors to this volume draw attention in much more detail to the nature of the specific implications of the UK union, which damages not only Wales but every one of its inhabitants, namely the Welsh, culturally and, it is argued, morally. The current governance of Wales causes social inequality which is always deepening and causes poverty and suffering, which enables racism and xenophobia, and which damages the country’s environmental assets and its future. We can’t go on like this. If we do, there will not be a successful, healthy Wales left where there once was. Instead, in this book, we outline a healthy future for this small country and its people.”

Eisteddfod Events

Book Launch

Naomi Hughes, Joseph Gnagbo and others
2:30 pm, Thursday 10 August
Awen Meirion Stand

Imagining an Independent Wales

4:30pm, Friday 11 August
Pabell y Cymdeithasau 2
Eisteddfod Genedlaethol

Former Plaid Cymru Leader Dafydd Wigley and Natalie Jones

What if the future of Wales could be shaped by the future of Wales?

Mercy Shibemba

The future of what Wales could be is more exciting than ever. Most people, whether they’re pro-Independence, ‘Indy-curious’ or doubtful about Independence, have some ideas about the Wales they want to see. Collectively, we are re-imagining what Wales could be.

What could the future of Wales look like if children and young people were key stakeholders in shaping it? To be truly democratic, engagement in civic life should be open to all. Across the world, the participation of children and young people in civic leadership rests on the political will and structures there to enable them to do so. Wales has already made its commitment to children and young people clear in the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011.

Recent years have highlighted how Wales is governed by Westminster-based British unionism, which has little understanding or regard for Wales. This is shown by events such as the recent decision to override legislation set by the Senedd or the negative impact of HS2 on Wales.

A recent YouGov poll showed that opposition to independence is at its lowest, with those more likely to support Welsh independence being 16- 24. Engaging this group (which Wales is losing as part of the ‘brain-drain’) to imagine what Wales could and should be a priority. Most people want change, but how we get there and what it looks like is both a challenge and opportunity.

Research highlights the often binary perceptions we have about the participation of children and young people in civic life. Either they’re disengaged and disenfranchised or leading and creating change. The Welsh Youth Parliament is an example of the value young people can bring to politics. But it is also an example of the limitations of replicating systems that we should reimagine.

Reimagining the future of Wales with young people as key stakeholders requires us all to be aware of the influence and power our current frameworks keep away from them.

Additionally, being accountable to the future should ensure that we support children and young people to define what that is. The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act (2015) shows that Wales is already leading the way in investing in the people of tomorrow.

By taking an intergenerational approach and supporting children and young people to create, challenge and inspire us all, Wales will be better off. They’re already building a better future for Wales by preserving our planet, tackling loneliness or bringing our cities to life. It is important that we don’t just value them for who they may become, but instead, who they are now, and what they dream for today.

What if we supported our children and young people of today to be key stakeholders in building the independent Wales of tomorrow?

Real Independence

Leanne Wood

The best decision makers are those who are directly affected by
those decisions: that should not be controversial.

Except, that is, if Westminster and Whitehall’s benches and halls of privilege are your natural home.

People in Wales face a number of problems and challenges that cannot be solved by our current power-limited Senedd. Nor can they be resolved by Westminster where Wales is never a priority.

There is no question that becoming an independent country will empower the people of Wales. But beyond the headline, it’s time for us to examine what it will really mean.

As ever, Raymond Williams’ thinking – introducing his concept of
‘real independence’ – was far ahead of his time. It’s approach that goes much further than just national constitutional arrangements. A call for a freedom characterised by a broad-mindedness and confidence that people have when they have
been politically and economically empowered to decide the direction of their own lives.

After too much time as a one-party state, it’s time to give geographical and economic equality and community empowerment a chance. That community-led, devolved socialism will be a clear break neo-liberal approach at the United Kingdom level.

As a national movement, our aim is not to bring more powers to Cardiff. If economic activity and public investment continue to focus on the area around the M4 corridor in south east of Wales, we will be emulating the British state on a smaller scale, while neglecting communities in and around the capital as well.

We will have the opportunity to do our politics differently, ensuring that policies suit the needs of our communities.

What is needed is to encourage people to engage in the process of thinking about how we can solve our problems together and to inspire people to take part in local initiatives that build the resilience of their communities.

What is needed is a program that presents a set of values and principles and policy ideas to empower and end our economic dependency.

This process has already started: as activists succeed in convincing more and more people to agree with the principle that decisions that affect Wales should be made in Wales.

Raymond’s real independence is in touching distance, and the intense debate about the plan to get us there is underway.

An Independent Wales could invest billions more in public services – report

An independent Wales could afford to invest an extra £3 billion a year in public services, such as universal free childcare and public transport, according to Melin Drafod’s new report.
The discussion paper comes to the conclusion that there is a “credible argument that Wales would face a deficit … that would make [it] as capable as the vast majority of European countries to be independent.
The Melin Drafod research claims it would be prudent to improve Wales’ fiscal position by around 6-7% of GDP over a period of years through policy changes including:
  • increasing tax revenue levels to the European average, with major tax reforms, drug decriminalisation and taxing landlords;
  • changing the relationship with work and increasing the percentage of the population that is of working age, including by relaxing immigration rules;
  • reducing defence spending to the same level as Ireland;
  • delivering savings through the creation of a single integrated emergency service, fewer county councils and a significant reduction in the prison population.
It also suggests that, if negotiations with the rest of the UK followed international precedent and its policy changes introduced, Wales would have around £3 billion a year extra to invest.
The think tank proposes that money could go to projects such as free universal childcare and a program to decarbonise the transport, energy and housing systems.
Talat Chaudhri, Chair of Melin Drafod, the think tank which examines the implications of Wales becoming an independent nation, said:
“Hopefully this paper will stimulate an even more detailed policy discussion about the path towards establishing Wales as an independent, successful and progressive state. It is often said that Wales’ fiscal situation is one of the biggest obstacles by organisations trying to convince the public of the case for Welsh independence. The paper we are publishing today shows not only that there is a strong argument that Wales could afford independence, but that there is an opportunity to create a new society. A much fairer, greener and peaceful country than the one trapped in a failed and completely unfair UK economic system.”
Melin Drafod’s discussion paper is the result of consultation with a variety of experts.
Tegid Roberts, Founder of Banc Cambria, Cadarn and Director of Quantum Soup Studio, commented:
“This paper is not only an excellent summary of the work done to date on Welsh finances, but also a starting point for a much wider discussion about what the Welsh society and its economy should be. That wider discussion has the advantage of rejecting Westminster orthodoxy and starting afresh. It can consider a Welsh central bank and currency and it can also take a blank sheet to the welfare system and our tax system as well. At this stage nothing should be off the table other than the Welsh society should come first and its economy a function of that and not the other way around.”
Mark Hooper, Founder of IndyCube and Banc Cambria added:
“This paper, for me, is an important conversation starter. Wales needs a deep and challenging debate regarding the type of society we need, and the type of state that’s therefore required. The economy we need to deliver that gets constructed around the answers to those questions.
“This is a hugely exciting and invigorating time for us, as we build a new Wales; let’s avoid being restricted in our thinking with the stuff that we know doesn’t work. The independence movement must enable these important and defining conversations now.”

Independence summit planned for Swansea

Talat Chaudhri

Groups campaigning for independence for Wales have joined forces to hold a summit in Swansea next month (28 January 2023). 

The organisers from the think tank Melin Drafod say the event will be a chance for campaigners to discuss how Wales becomes independent.

The event comes amid further discussion about uniting the island of Ireland and all recent polling showing majority support for Scottish independence. 

A recent ruling from the UK supreme court denying an independence vote also raises questions about how people in Wales could have their say. 

Among the speakers at the Swansea summit will be Welsh Green Party Leader Anthony Slaughter, Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS, Cllr Rachel Garrick from Welsh Labour for Independence, Sam Coates from Undod, YesCymru’s Gwern Evans, Senedd Member Luke Fletcher, Joseph Gnagbo, Mirain Owen from Cymdeithas yr Iaith and Amanda Burgauer of Common Weal.

Talat Chaudhri, Chair of think tank Melin Drafod, said:

“We are coming together because Wales needs to discuss its strategy to become an independent state. There is no time to lose – with the UK quickly unravelling, Wales needs to be ready for its future as a progressive, independent country.

“Wales’ independence is in touching distance, but we need a plan to ensure that we can use the powers of independence to build together a society that is fair, green and progressive. If we get the plan right, we can be a beacon to the rest of the world.

“We cannot rely on others to shape our destiny for us: we, the ordinary citizens of Wales, need to take the lead ourselves.”

The independence summit will be held on Saturday 28 January in the Brangwyn Hall in Swansea. Further information can be found by clicking here.

Imagining an Independent Wales

Recording from a discussion held in Cardiff on 30th September 2022 with Leanne Wood, Eric Ngalle Charles, Mirain Owen, Tessa Marshall and Elin Hywel.

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