23:09 GMT +305 December 2019
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    The Welsh flag flies outside the national assembly building in Cardiff on September 24, 2015.

    Watch and Wonder: Independence Campaigners in Wales May Copy Catalan Vote

    © AFP 2019 / Damien Meyer
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    As separatist leaders vow to press ahead with Catalonia's controversial independence vote in defiance of Spain's central government, counterparts in Wales now believe it could become the perfect platform for them to spring a similar move there.

    Independence campaigners in Wales have been watching intently developments surrounding the Catalan crisis where separatists plan to stage a referendum on independence on Sunday, October 1, despite it being outlawed by Madrid —  and now remain convinced an identical vote could be replicated in their country.

    A woman gestures as others wave the estelada or Catalonia independence flags during a protest in Barcelona, Spain Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
    © AP Photo / Emilio Morenatti
    A woman gestures as others wave the "estelada" or Catalonia independence flags during a protest in Barcelona, Spain Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.

    While there is no official mandate yet for an independence referendum on whether Wales should leave the UK, unlike the one staged in Scotland in 2014, YesCymru insist there is now a growing groundswell of opinion backing the call.

    Iestyn ap Rhobert, chairperson of YesCymru, says he is "absolutely certain" Wales has what it takes to go for its own independence, having been inspired by the energy and drive witnessed in Catalonia.

    "I am absolutely certain of this, Wales has what it takes to go for its own independence," Mr. Rhobert tells Sputnik.

    The 'I' Word

    Previously the biggest problem they faced, historically anyway, was that as soon as the word "independence" was mentioned, it was shot down by the Unionist parties in Wales.

    "It was shot down by people who would rather see Westminster [British government] govern Wales," Mr. Rhobert continues.

    "Independence is still seen by some as a dirty word and it shouldn't. Independence is emancipation, freedom is the right for Wales to govern itself. And the more you talk about the benefits of independence to the people, [they] are becoming confident, even those who have been skeptical in the past about independence, the response we tend to get now is a positive one."

    The YesCymru official admitted not everyone is convinced by the stand for independence, admitting "hard-core unionists" still remain to be won over by any such move.

    "But the majority of the people are quite open to independence now," Mr. Rhobert stresses.

    Power to Govern Oneself

    His party commissioned two YouGov polls in 2016 and, on both occasions, it showed increasing support for independence in Wales — including in traditional Labour heartlands.

    "The last poll we did, we asked would you support independence, given certain circumstances, and 40 percent of Labour supporters would actually support it.

    "Now if you bear that in mind, and there is not even an official campaign for independence yet, it is encouraging," Mr. Rhobert says.

    YesCymru supporters have been assisting in the independence campaign in Catalonia, having helped out in the Scottish independence vote previously.

    Mr. Rhobert insists the Catalan vote is important, not least because the area has similar problems to those in Wales and Scotland — not having the power to govern itself properly especially in fiscal terms.

    "We know that Catalonia produces 20 percent of the Spanish state's wealth, which it has creamed off the profit it takes away from Catalonia," he says.

    Right to Self-Determination

    The Welsh independence party, the chairperson explains, believes every nation or every country has the right to self-determination as set out in the United Nations charter.

    "It states we have a right to become a fully functional country in our own right, with full control over foreign policies and everything to do with national rights," Mr. Rhobert tells Sputnik.

    Apart from strong relations with independence campaigners in Catalonia, YesCymru has also established links with counterparts in the Basque country, Brittany and Scotland.

    Meanwhile as the stand-off continues in Spain, separatists and the regional Catalan government insist they will press ahead with the election despite the vote being banned by the country's constitutional court.

    Concerns have been expressed by the European Union over the handling of the affair by Madrid in the wake of a spate of arrests involving government leaders in Catalonia.

    A man places an Estelada (Catalan separatist flag) on a stick during a protest outside the High Court of Justice of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain, September 21, 2017.
    © REUTERS / Jon Nazca
    A man places an Estelada (Catalan separatist flag) on a stick during a protest outside the High Court of Justice of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain, September 21, 2017.

    A senior EU official in Brussels has been quoted as saying, "We are very worried about the Catalan situation. We are following it with concern."

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    Tags:
    Welsh independence, indyref 2.0, Scottish independence, referendum, independence, 2017 Catalan independence referendum, Scottish referendum, YesCymru, Catalonia, Wales, United Kingdom, Scotland, Spain
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