What’s the point of independence marches?

Why do people get out of their houses, pack up their flags and do a circuit of a Welsh town before listening to people talking down a microphone at them about things they really, really agree with? They could have gone to B&Q.

It’s about visibility. Not so much a show of force, but as a sign of how many people, and what sort of people support an independent Wales.

Marching for independence isn’t going to convince the Welsh Government to secede, but it will grab column inches and display a shop window to the movement for people who may not have given it a second thought previously.

It was great to see a large turnout at last weekend’s march for Welsh independence in Wrecsam since it gave tangible form to the independence movement for the first time in two years. While Covid had stopped marches from taking place, the only space in which the movement existed was online, leading to ugly disagreements, and for a lot of people, a complete loss of interest in political activism.

Independence? Yes please. But all this other stuff? No thanks, there’s a pandemic happening, I’ve had my fill, thanks.

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Yes Cymru’s failure to retain the majority of the huge numbers of members it acquired simply because their memberships lapsed was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of missed opportunities over this time period.

There has been plenty of coverage of Wrecsam’s march - the physical event has been a success which has created a buzz in online spaces. So now that the shop window has pulled the shutters up, it’s absolutely crucial for supporters of independence to put their best foot forward and capture the imagination of any passing trade.

This is why it’s so frustrating to see such wildly varying and inflated numbers of attendees to the march being thrown around after an event that was without any shadow of doubt a total success.

The people who already support independence and have thrown their weight behind it will continue to support the movement whether a march has 20 people attending or 20,000. And those who are outright against the idea of Welsh independence will never be interested regardless of how many others support it.

The Welsh independence movement needs to focus its attention on winning over people in between those two extremes, because it’s only from there that the political consensus for independence can be built.

The National Wales: A Welsh independence march in Cardiff, 2019. (Picture: Huw Evans Agency)A Welsh independence march in Cardiff, 2019. (Picture: Huw Evans Agency)

I’m sure I’ll get stick for this because it seems like a trivial point, but the numbers attending independence marches are a trivial point. However, the more serious issue here is the ability of those advocating Welsh independence to deal with reality and objective figures.

The numbers attending might be of interest to those already in the movement, but nobody who’s undecided is going to change their mind simply because some arbitrary number decided to travel to Wrecsam one weekend.

If you’re sat on the fence, or unconvinced about Welsh independence - as more people than not are - you might have questions about the economic reality and the impact that Welsh independence will have on your day-to-day life. If the people who are arguing in favour of independence are exaggerating the numbers on their marches, why wouldn’t they inflate the numbers when it comes to the benefits of independence?

The credibility of the Welsh independence movement relies on it being honest, truthful and transparent about absolutely everything.

Most people don’t care about history when it comes to independence, they care about how their lives can be materially improved by leaving the UK. They want to be informed, and they want facts. Without them, they’ll stick to the status quo.

The political present is the greatest weapon in the Welsh independence movement’s armoury.

Smoke and mirrors and showmanship might play well on social media with people who are already converted, but the independence movement has reached a level of maturity now where only cold, hard facts will start winning more people over.

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There’s more than enough to make the case for independence for Wales. Westminster wants to repeal Welsh laws passed by a democratically elected Senedd, Westminster is lowering the number of representatives that Wales will have in Parliament, HS2 is somehow considered a project that will benefit Wales.

The argument has to be about the simple fact that the current political system isn’t just and doesn’t work for the people of Wales, and no amount of reforming will right that wrong. The answer is independence.

We don’t need to rely on an emotive back story of how Wales has been mistreated by England - evoking princes past is useless. Nor is it about historical mistreatment either - the Welsh Not is an important part of history, but it’s not an important part of the present situation.

I got in touch with North Wales Police, by the way. They told me that they don’t issue official attendance figures for such events, but the perception of the local team on the ground was around 5,000 people in attendance.

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