‘I hope to see independence in my lifetime’: Welsh learners respond to Independence Report
CJS News has spoken to people who have moved to Wales and heard their experiences about learning the language, and their opinion on whether the country can stand on its own two feet.
It comes after a report found that independence is a ‘viable option’ for Wales, but stressed that the country would face ‘significant’ short-term challenges if it left the union.
The report from The Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales was welcomed by Welsh Labour leader and First Minister Mark Drakeford, as well as Plaid Cymru ministers, but was criticised by a number of Welsh Conservatives.
The future of how Wales will be governed will not only affect Welsh-born citizens, but also those who have moved to the country. For some who have made Wales their home and learnt the language, the prospect of independence has sparked mixed feelings.
Kurdish-Welsh restaurant owner Agit Cevis, who moved to Cardiff from Turkey 24 years ago, welcomed the report.
Cevis has lived in Cardiff since 1999, and now considers himself Welsh. He has been involved with Plaid Cymru since 2005, and the Yes Cymru movement since 2010:
Welsh independence, in my lifetime, is something I hope to see, but I think we need at least another 10, 15 years to build the nation to be ready .”
He likened Welsh cultural struggles and the importance of language to his own experiences in Turkey.
He said: “For me, language and identity, it’s a very important part of my mother tongue. In Turkey, we fight for our existence, we prove our existence, and we do that through our language.”
Having learned the Welsh language, which features on the menus at his restaurant Saraztro, he emphasised that the government should focus on strengthening the language and cultural identity in Wales before becoming independent.
But the report was not welcomed by everyone, with some of the opinion that while independence is a viable option, the UK would be “generally stronger together”. Miriam Hide moved to Cardiff from Sheffield and has also learnt Welsh. Being from Yorkshire, she feels that “like many Welsh people, I don’t feel represented by Westminster.” Reflecting on the Brexit Referendum of 2016, she said:
I didn’t get the opportunity to vote in the EU Referendum but I would have voted to remain, and I think a similar principle here follows, that generally as a people we are stronger together.”
The independent commission does consider other options such as enhanced devolution and a federal UK, which would see all nations having equal powers.
The news has also led to a wider debate outside of Wales, as Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt branded Labour a “separatist party” in her response to the report.
Mark Drakeford called this “a serious piece of work that deserves careful consideration and the Welsh Government will be reviewing it in detail.”