Ronald Olden

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.



  1. Having now read it; I largely agree. Though to call Wales “a peninsula” is stretching geography. We have two peninsulae but most of the land mass is simply “West Anglia”.

    To me the problem with Wales as a Nation is that North Wales is physically and economically far closer to the NW of England than to South Wales and ditto for South Wales and the SW of England. Mid Wales; largely unpopulated and with no major transport links by road or rail simply serves to keep the peoples of North and South Wales apart.

    Some years ago I had a morning meeting with Ron Davies (Lord Davies of Clapham Common) at a to me unknown location in Cardiff. It was impossible to get there from Wrexham on the day by public transport and to be sure of arriving on time by car would have meant a 3am alarm so I had to go down the previous night.

    As I pointed out to him, it would have been easy to travel by public transport to meet him in London. Or, indeed. Carlisle. If Wales is to remain a polity it needs a motorway and rail link from Swansea to Rhyl.

    And a Parliament in Llandrindod Wells.


    I have heard about fake news but this is the first such item that I have actually read. Every single thing he says about Wales could equally apply to England and Scotland. Have you ever heard highlanders and lowlanders talking about each other? How many Cornish people have ever travelled to Northumbria? How many people from Canterbury have ever been to Cockermouth? Has he ever been anywhere near a six nations rugby match? The clue is in the title.

    Wales is a nation. We have a sense of national identity, there is a nationalist movement. We make jokes about the English. We eat lava bread and cockles. The number of Welsh speakers is increasing. etc, etc, etc.

    Happy new year to all readers, Welsh, english or any other nationality.

    • Wales is a nation, I agree – and I very much like the Welsh. But is it a country? I always believed (and I think there is support for this) that Wales is, strictly considered, a principality (in contemporary terminology, a region) and thus an adjunct of England in the sense that it has no official status. I accept the constitutional position is complicated by the existence of the Assembly.

      • I came here to say that Wales is NOT in any real sense a Principality because PofW is simply a courtesy title of the Monarch’s eldest son and confer no powers; these residing with the Queen.

        Wiki-ing for a list of REAL principalities I found this excellent summary

        “Generally recognised surviving sovereign principalities are Liechtenstein, Monaco, and the co-principality of Andorra. Extant royal primogenitures styled as principalities include Asturias (Spain), and Wales (UK).[citation needed] The term “principality” is often used informally to describe Wales as it currently exists,[citation needed] but this has no constitutional basis. The Principality of Wales existed in the northern and western areas of Wales between the 13th and 16th centuries; the Laws in Wales Act of 1536 which legally incorporated Wales within England removed the distinction between those areas and the March of Wales, but no principality covering the whole of Wales was created. Since that time, the title Prince of Wales (together with Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay, among other titles) has traditionally been granted to the heir to the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, but it confers no responsibilities for government in Wales. It has country status and is one of four countries in the United Kingdom.[1] “

  3. As a Welshman, I always defined that if you are born, brought up and lived in Wales all your life, you are Welsh. I can understand where Mr Olden is coming from in terms of the fact that us Southerners are different to the Northerners and Mid-derners as we have very little in common. But to define that Wales is not a country has to be up for debate. One where this won’t be settled soon if at all.

    • Playing Devil’s advocate; someone could meet all your criteria and NOT be Welsh; eg if they have non-Welsh parents and maintain a non-Welsh lifestyle. And someone might meet none of them yet BE Welsh.

      Really the question of whether Wales is a nation/country depends on your definition of those words. Though even then the waters are muddy because the Laws in Wales Acts pretty clearly made Wales PART of England but since then the Union with Scotland and takeover of Ireland has led to it being regarded similarly to the other minor nations of the Union.

      Tony Blair COULD have defined the matter at the time of his messed up devolution. But failed to do so.

  4. So because Wales is too small to be a country, you attempt to tear down Scottish nationalism on account of us attempting to decide our own matters, whilst Wales does what? Just rolls on to it’s back and derides another country for doing something it itself is to insignificant to dare attempt? Look, I’ am sorry Wales has resigned itself to being England’s tumor, but what right do you have to mock Scotland simply wanting to be independent. And in regards to Europe, well, we ourselves are already insignificant within this union, so what does it matter if our voice isn’t heard by all nations, when all we seek is to be a peaceful country, not a superpower?

    • The Scottish King and his successors became King of England (including Wales) centuries ago. Shortly after the Scottish leaders of the day agreed to Union; very recently confirmed by the electorate.

      So stop moaning. If you don’t, we may decide to close down the Edinburgh Hobbitt House to solve the West Midlothian question. Then we can restore Scottish education to its once proud level.

      • Moaning? Well, I’d rather be a moaner than a self hating Welshman. Regardless, you didn’t answer my question, nor address anything I said. Jesus; as though Wales would have the power to anything of the sort. And tell me, whose universities are ranked higher; Scotland’s, or those in Wales.

        • Welshmen love both each other and their English neighbours. North Wales is closely integrated with NW England and S Wales likewise with SW England. Travel and social links N-S are far weaker. And the other lot don’t talk Welsh properly. Though of course the Scots have almost totally adopted the English language.

          The Welsh regard themselves as (at least) on a par with the English whereas the Scots display a sense of inferiority – perhaps because the best of them have emigrated?

          As to Scottish education; St Andrews and Edinburgh do seem to be maintaining high standards but the rest of Scots unis are on a level with the Welsh ones. It is in school education that lefty policies seem to be wreaking havoc. On QT last night a Maths teacher said that pupils now left primary school wholly innumerate.

          • Welshmen have had no choice but to see themselves as England minor, through no fault of their own, being such a tiny nation as they are. I accept that, but it seems you’re deluding yourself in regarding Wales being subjected by England as something to draw pride from; that I do not understand. And, if acknowledging the cultural differences between Scotland and England, which as is pointed out above, is more often than not further amplified by the cruel treatment of latter, on the former; then so be it. But you must understand the absurdity of painting modern Scotland in such broad strokes, claiming our entire drive for independence is based solely on grievance; this isn’t the 1300’s after all. A country should be independent of an unfair and unbalanced union of unequal parts. Scotland is far richer and stronger than Wales, and has more to offer internationally. Why seek to equate the two in position to England, when neither are, or in, England. It just seems as though you are bitter in regards to the prospects and future of Wales, and so seek to float Scotland in the same boat. You simply don’t want to be alone.

            Also, QT is inherently biased, and is in no way an accurate source as to what is happening in the Scottish education system. If that is where you source your information, then perhaps you need to broaden your horizons a tad.

  5. ‘The Welsh name for Wales is ‘Cymru’ and means ‘foreigner’ or ‘outsider’. ‘
    Not true – that is what the English name means (wealas). I think you will find that Cymru means just what you are referring to.

Leave a Reply