Only a fiercely proud Welshman can make a statement like this, and get away with it. But Wales is not a ‘Nation’. We are ‘special’, and ‘special’ in a way which should appeal to ‘libertarians’.
Wales is a ‘Community of Communities’. It has no noticeable ‘National’ characteristic. Within the confines of our Peninsula, Wales is as culturally diverse as the rest of the UK put together. Significant proportions of Welsh people speak a language totally different from English, and even that language varies significantly, between North and South.
North, Mid and South Walian people have little or nothing in common with one another and rarely travel to each other’s regions. Some never manage to do so at all. And the Western third of Wales, whether it be North, Mid or South is very different from the Mid South and Eastern regions. Pembrokeshire, in the far West, is different again, and is sometimes referred to as ‘Little England beyond Wales’. Wales truly is a ‘Community of Communities’.
All that unites the Welsh is the fact tht we are not English, Scottish or Irish.
Wales’ lack of ‘National’ coherence arises from the fact that we never became a ‘Nation State’. We are the part of the island of Great Britain, which isn’t England or Scotland. The Welsh name for Wales is ‘Cymru’ and means ‘foreigner’ or ‘outsider’. Which is exactly what we are. We are outside England. But that doesn’t mean that we are a ‘Nation’ let alone a ‘State’ in our own right.
Even if we had gone done the route of becoming a ‘Nation State’ there’s no reason to suppose that we would have become just a single one, within the existing border of the Wales Peninsula. Offa’s Dyke was never a National Border. It existed to provide a look out post in case any violent rabble came to loot the wealth and treasures of Mercia.
Had Wales become a ‘Nation State’ it would likely have been confined within the borders of what we now see as ‘Welsh Speaking Wales’, that being the ancient Celtic regions of Deheubarth, Gwynedd, Anglesey, and the far West of Powys.
The happy consequence of Welsh Geography and History, is that we never never acquired the pretentious centralised Government which inevitably insists on dominating every aspect of our lives. Any libertarian should welcome our good fortune. Early in the the 20th Century Wales even managed to dump the Church of England.
‘Nations’ are nearly always forged in blood, but apart from, what by the standards of history, were minor skirmishes, Wales never endured such horrors. The last attempts at creating a Nation State petered out in the 15th Century and so (in cultural memory at least) are long forgotten. Not for us the agonising embittered memories the Scots and Irish still endure. Welsh people recognised long ago that they were hopelessly out gunned by the English, and reconciled themselves to making the best of it. Welsh ‘Nationalism’, such as it was, (and is), focussed more on the healthier ‘community’ driven and cultural aspects of life.
This outcome paid dividends for the Welsh. English and Welsh people reconciled themselves to one another, and lived contentedly side by side. Consequently England, for the most part, looked indulgently upon Wales, or ignored it completely. Wales never threatened England, so England never felt the need to oppress the Welsh too fiercely. The Welsh never endured the ethnic cleansing that Scots and Irish suffered, and didn’t develop bitter internal divisions.
Scotland, in historical terms relatively recently,however, actually and despite having signed an Act of Union with England, invaded England and tried to overthrow the Monarch! Bonnie Prince Charlie managed to get as far South as Derby. The Hanovarians and Parliament, retaliated and routed the Scots. Scots nevertheless feel hard done by!
The reason for Scotland’s dilemma is that around 1000 years ago, it proceeded well down the road to ‘Nation Statehood’, but ended up with the worst of all worlds. Scotland became a ‘failed state’. But it’s pretensions of ‘Nationhood’ have never gone away, and many Scots are unable to reconcile themselves to being anything else. Thus we have Scotland’s chaotic and incoherent attitude to its own ‘independence’. It engages in ‘Megaphone Nationalism’ but won’t vote to become Independent. The SNP won’t even call another Independence Referendum.
Scottish Nationalists and even many Scottish Unionists, are unhappy in the UK because they claim England and Wales interferes with their own ‘sovereignty’, but nevertheless demand that Scotland remains in the European Union, a Union which even its’ own supporters must recognise, gives tiny putative States like Scotland, far less ‘sovereignty’ over their own affairs than the UK itself offers. Were Scotland independent, its ‘voice in the Europe; that Nicola Sturgeon keeps going on about, would be inaudible. Within the UK however, Scotland has the best part of 9% of the Members of Parliament, and has, over the decades, determined the composition of the Governement more often than its’ size of population would justify.
In the 1975 EU Referendum the SNP were vehemently in favour of ‘Leaving’ the EU, and a much smaller proportion of Scots voted in favour of ‘Remaining’, than did English and Welsh people. In the 2016 EU Referendum however, England (with Wales in tow), had the self confidence to Vote ‘Leave’ in near identical proportions.
But no doubt in the interest of demonstrating their ‘independence’ the SNP and the Scottish electorate had by 2016, reversed their positions completely compared with 1975, and voted overwhelmingly to ‘Remain’. They now demand that we must all stay in the Single Market, because they’ve decided they wish to do so. Scottish Nationalists are, once again, left shrieking impotently on the sidelines.
There’s no conceivable reason for Scotland’s and the SNP’s change of heart, other than their own ‘Nationalism’. It’s perfectly reasonable for someone who would have voted ‘Remain’ in 1975 to conclude that he should vote ‘Leave’ in 2016. The nature of the EU has changed. But why on Earth would someone who would have voted to ‘Leave’ the EU in 1975, wish to ‘Remain’ now?
Wales of course was fortunate in its’ history and geographic location. The Roman’s weren’t particularly interested in most of it, and neither were the Vikings and Anglo Saxons. When England became a united ‘Nation State’, it too was content to exclude Wales. The Peninsula didn’t really have much that England wanted. As long as Wales didn’t threaten it, England was content to leave the Welsh largely unmolested. If Edward 1st could include Wales in his ‘Kingdom’, and the Monarchy could call the future heirs to the throne ‘Prince of Wales’, the King was happy.
This feat could be achieved by building a few castles to frighten people into submission. But owing to the fact that Wales didn’t have much in the way of ‘Nationalist’ pretensions anyway, the Welsh didn’t need that much frightening.
The moral of the story of the history of England, Scotland and Wales is, that if you have pretensions of ‘Nation Statehood’, you need to achieve it in full, like England did, or, settle for something different, like we in Wales have.
We Welsh can call ourselves a ‘Nation’ whenever it’s convenient for us. And we do so vigorously whenever out football team is doing well, when we watch the Rugby, or when our athletes are competing in the Olympic and Commonwealth Games. But for most of the time we’re happy living under the same roof as the English and they are happy to accommodate us.
This story also offers ideological vindication for libertarians like myself. We don’t need to have a ‘State’ to be a ‘Nation’. We can call ourselves a ‘Nation’ whenever it takes our fancy. We can all be whatever we want, whenever we like. It’s the ‘State’ that’s the source of all the problems.