The recent fifth anniversary of the Brexit referendum brought another reminder that a clear majority of Welsh voters backed Brexit – especially in the industrial heartlands of the Valleys and North East Wales. This year’s Senedd election also saw big gains for Labour and the Conservatives at the expense of Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats. How should the independence movement respond to this?

What is Conservatism?

The nature of conservatism is to preserve and protect the working fundamentals of society, and to make only small, incremental changes to allow society to develop and flourish. Therefore, to some, the concept of Welsh Independence is at odds to the social stability conservatives are keen to protect.

However, Welsh conservatism is at a crossroads. An ideological schism is developing between nationalism and unionism. Gwlad has come into being as a conservative nationalist party.

Small ‘c’ conservatives don’t necessarily associate themselves with the Tory party and even the grassroots within the Tory party have become increasingly unaligned with the values that their politicians hold. The current crop of Conservatives in Westminster are liberal British Nationalists, centralising power and ignoring the demands of local people up and down the country, regardless of their rhetoric on ‘levelling up’.

To be a nationalist isn’t antithetical to being a conservative. Welsh nationalists want to conserve what makes Wales, Wales. Our communities, our language, our culture, our spirit. Only in the last few decades has Welsh nationalism been associated with left-wing politics. For it to succeed it must become a big-tent movement.

The necessity of a shared movement

The ‘old-school’ nationalists will understand the importance of not allowing the independence movement to divide and splinter. After all, it’s what has kept support for Welsh sovereignty at bay. Yet for some of the most extreme within the independence movement, it has become a vehicle for socialism and their personal ideological agendas.

After the downfall of Corbynism in the December 2019 election, too many left-wing extremists have sought refuge in the movement, and this entryism (in particular within YesCymru) must be stopped in its tracks.

Independence is not an issue for the left or the right. The fundamental argument for independence is that Wales is a nation, and that Welsh people should be the only arbiter of the law of the land within Wales.

Much like conservatives preach about shouldering individual responsibility, we as a country must bear the collective responsibility for our own affairs.

Independence cannot be won by a ‘50 per cent+1’. Welsh independence must include as many of the people of Wales that it can. And that means compromising across the political spectrum.

Every argument for Brexit is an argument for independence

Many of us who support Brexit, support independence. I want to see local people in charge of their communities. I want more power for the ‘little man’.

I don’t want big government in another country creating laws on our behalf, nor do I want to be talked down to by politicians who have little idea what it is like to live in the communities in which Welsh people reside.

For now Brexit is done and dusted. Independence for the first time in a long time is firmly on the political agenda. If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that we must remain humble.

Silencing those who we disagree with will get us nowhere. And for the sake of the independence movement, collaboration and co-operation will get us over that line. Whether people like it or not, Wales is a politically diverse country. The independence movement must, and will, reflect that.

18 year-old Calen Jones lives in Ebbw Vale. He headed Gwlad’s regional list for the South Wales East Region in May’s Senedd election.