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Welsh independence is a political ideal advocated by some people in Wales that would see Wales secede from the United Kingdom and become an independent sovereign state. This ideology is promoted mainly by the Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru.[1]



Location of Wales in the United Kingdom

Wales became distinct culturally and politically from other Brythonic groups during the Early Middle Ages.[2][3] Following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the Normans penetrated into Wales and gradually established control over parts of the region.[3] The death of Llywelyn the Last in 1282 led to the conquest of the last independent Welsh kingdom by Edward I of England. The Welsh revolted against English rule several times over the next years, with the last significant attempt being the Glyndŵr Rising of 1400–1415. In the 16th century Henry VIII, himself of Welsh extraction, passed the Laws in Wales Acts aiming to incorporate Wales fully into the Kingdom of England. For centuries, the union was considered to be an advantage to Wales, and it offered new opportunities to the Welsh gentry who could now become justices of the peace and members of Parliament at Westminster.[4]

According to the Encyclopedia of Wales, the belief that Wales should form an independent nation state originated in the mid 19th century (the Welsh word for nationalism, cenedlaetholdeb, dates from 1858).[5] The Sunday Closing Act of 1881 was the first legislation to acknowledge that Wales had a separate politico-legal character from the rest of the English state. In 1886 Joseph Chamberlain proposed "Home Rule All Round" the United Kingdom, and in the same year the Cymru Fydd (Young Wales) movement was founded to further the cause.[5] However, the goal they envisaged was a devolved assembly rather than a fully independent state, and the movement collapsed in 1896 amid personal rivalries and rifts between representatives from the North and South, East and West Wales.[5]

There was little mainstream political interest in Home Rule following the First World War. The focus of Welsh nationalist politics moved to the newly-founded Plaid Cymru from 1925,[5] although it took until the late 1960s for Plaid to make its first electoral breakthroughs. In 1956 a 250,000-name petition calling for a parliament for Wales produced few results, but the declaration of Cardiff as the capital of Wales in 1955,[6] Labour's 1959 commitment to appoint a Secretary of State for Wales, the creation of the Welsh Office in 1965,[7] and the repeal of the Wales and Berwick Act 1746 two years later seemed to demonstrate a growing nationalist impetus.[5] However, the heavy defeat for a proposed Welsh Assembly offered by Labour in the 1979 devolution referendum "suggested that the vast majority of the inhabitants of Wales had no desire to see their country having a national future".[5]

In the 1980s, economic restructuring and Thatcherite market reforms brought social dislocation to parts of Wales, which had formerly been described as having "the largest public sector west of the Iron Curtain".[8] A succession of non-Welsh Conservative Secretaries of State after 1987 was portrayed by opponents as 'colonial' and indicative of a 'democratic deficit'.[8] In the early 1990s the Labour Party became committed to devolution to both Scotland and Wales, and in 1997 it was elected with a manifesto commitment to hold referenda on a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly.[8]

The proposed assembly won a narrow majority in the 1997 referendum. By this stage the political climate was very different to 1979, with a new generation of Welsh MPs in Westminster and a broad consensus on the previously divisive issue of the Welsh language.[8] However, political commentator Denis Balsom notes public sentiment that devolution may have been "unnecessary" following the election of a 'progressive' Labour Government.[8] These conflicting sentiments were reflected in the relatively low turnout at the referendum and the narrowness of the victory for devolution campaigners. Since 1997, there is evidence of increased support for, and trust in, the Assembly and greater support for it to receive enhanced powers.[9]


Surveys regarding support for independence have yielded different results, though they often find that between 10 and 15% of Welsh desire independence from the United Kingdom.[10] A 2001 survey for the Institute of Welsh Affairs found that 11% of people polled favoured independence.[11] A 2007 survey by the Institute of Welsh Politics at the University of Wales found that 12% of those questioned supported independence, down slightly from 14% in 1997.[12] A poll taken by BBC Wales Newsnight in 2007 found that 20% of Welsh questioned favoured independence.[10] A 2006 poll taken by Wales on Sunday found the number to be as high as 52%.[13]

See also


  1. ^ "Aims : Plaid Cymru - the Party of Wales".;lID=1. Retrieved 2008-01-11.  
  2. ^ Koch, pp. 291–292.
  3. ^ a b Koch, p. 551.
  4. ^ BBC History - Wales under the Tudors
  5. ^ a b c d e f The Welsh Academy Encyclopedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press 2008
  6. ^ Cardiff as Capital of Wales: Formal Recognition by Government", The Times (1955-12-21).
  7. ^ The National Archives | NDAD | Welsh Office
  8. ^ a b c d e Balsom, D. "Political Developments in Wales 1979-1997" in Balsom and Barry Jones, eds (2000) The Road to the National Assembly for Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
  9. ^ Welsh Assembly Government | Governance
  10. ^ a b "Welsh firmly back Britain's Union". BBC News. 16 January 2007. Retrieved 15 July 2009.  
  11. ^ Cole, Alistair; J. Barry Jones, Alan Storer (September 2001). "Consensus Growing for Stronger Assembly". Institute of Welsh Affairs. Retrieved 16 July 2009.  
  12. ^ Livingstone, Tomos (17 September 2007). "Parliament for Wales says poll". WalesOnline. Retrieved 16 July 2009.  
  13. ^ Withers, Matt (30 July 2006). "Please, sir, can we have some more?". WalesOnline. Retrieved 16 July 2009.  


  • Koch, John T. (2006). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO.  


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