With its huge membership, finances, and level of support, YesCymru has so much potential. It could rally people and resources to build all the civic institutions, think tanks, research and alliances needed to power a serious and successful movement.

So that's why ahead of YesCymru’s EGM on Saturday, members need to think hard about the strategy that underpins the new governance documents.

If you don’t religiously follow the only debates on independence, this might sound strange. Broadly, these arguments lie in two camps. There’s the broadly left leaning members who stress the need to say how independence could solve people's everyday problems. We'd be free to experiment with ideas like basic income, public ownership and other ideas we know Westminster won't consider.


Then there's people who call themselves ‘indyfirst’, who insist YesCymru should not just avoid party politics, but avoid campaigning on any of the other issues affecting the Welsh people.

This latter vision is hard-wired into the new governance documents members are being asked to approve. But this strategy won't work - because this just isn't how politics works.

Setting up a company structure to protect volunteers from legal and financial threats is long overdue. But the bizarre decision to use company documents to define YesCymru's structure, rather than a bare-bones legal one linked to a constitution, will stifle democracy and tie the movement's hands.

In the proposed Articles of Association, the second of the 'Objects' says that the company: "trusts the people of Wales to make democratic decisions about the way an independent Cymru will be governed and does not prejudge what those decisions should be." This would leave us unable to intervene in important campaigns, and if applied consistently, even block campaigning to protect the Welsh language.

At around 30 percent support, the indy movement has already won over half the people it needs to win. But that second third of the population, key to a supermajority, are not going to support an abstract constitutional change without knowing how it will affect them.

It's also very unlikely the over 10,000 members that joined during the pandemic did so because of a sudden explosion in Welsh 'national consciousness'. What we did see though was a hard-right UK government openly neglecting its basic duties to the public, while enriching their friends in the business world. It's pretty reasonable to say the rise in support is down to social democratic instincts - in revulsion at Tory callousness and supporting the Welsh Government's small attempts to put our safety before private profit.

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Those who argue the movement needs to completely avoid politics to win over 'as many people as possible' miss the fact that we neither can, or need to, win over much right-wing support.

Two thirds of Welsh voters backed left wing or liberal parties in this year's Senedd election. That's more than enough to win a referendum. And the people who vote for them, people who either identify as Welsh or both Welsh and British, are waiting to hear the case for why indy will improve their lives.

On the other hand, those who vote for the right are less likely to identify as Welsh. Instead, we can expect they are highly emotionally attached to key pillars of the British state. The armed forces, the royal family and other anchors of British nationalism will be very difficult to counteract.

Instead of taking on the near-impossible task of converting the right to indy by avoiding politics, we can energise and enthuse Wales' social democratic supermajority about independence by talking about the changes it can make.

I've not seen anyone suggest YesCymru should publish a detailed manifesto. But what it should do is support projects that can make the case people need to hear. And when we get to a referendum, we're going to need that basic platform. 

The 2014 campaign in Scotland was anything but apolitical - it was a popular rejection of the way Westminster rules Scotland. The SNP had a detailed Whitepaper on how things would work after indy, and people read it in droves. In fact, the failure to produce a clear position on the currency after independence was one of the most important factors in Yes' defeat.

We could do much worse than start with the 'social democratic floor' I outlined last year. A list like this would inspire many well reassuring others who are ambivalent about what they see as a 'nationalist' movement. Right now, 10 percent of people in some parts of Wales are going hungry. Poverty is going up, and the housing crisis gets ever deeper. The idea that we can persuade people without proposing solutions to their immediate problems could only be taken seriously by people who don't have to worry about this winter’s heating bill.

If we shift from being an inclusive, broadly progressive movement to one that effectively bans politics, our support will not grow. Without work to win over those conflicted, left-leaning people we need, we won't have the grassroots power we need over political parties to get us any closer to a referendum.

The proposals this weekend would lock in a naive view of how indy will be won that will be difficult to undo. This won't let us get back to campaigning for independence, it will freeze YesCymru in place as a lumbering beast unable to innovate, react or take advantage of the deep desire of our people for a better future. I'll be voting no, so a more democratic proposal can instead be brought before members.

Sam Coates is a political activist campaigning for Welsh independence and tenants' rights. 

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