OVER the past couple of years, the Dug and I have been travelling the length and breadth of Scotland, talking to local Yes and SNP groups about Scottish independence. But on Wednesday, we had a new and different experience. We were invited to come along by Aled Gwyn Job of Yes Cymru to give a talk to the organisation’s local group in the picturesque town of Caernarfon, deep in the heart of Welsh speaking Wales.

Yes Cymru is one of the newest and fastest growing organisations in the Welsh political scene. Directly inspired by the network of Yes groups across Scotland, Yes Cymru was founded in 2016 by Iestyn ap Robert who wanted a national grassroots organisation to promote the cause of Welsh independence in a nation where Plaid Cymru seems to many to blow hot and cold on the topic. Like the Yes groups in Scotland, Yes Cymru consists of a network of autonomous local groups. At the last count there were some 36 of them to be found in every corner of Wales.

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Independence supporters in Wales look enviously on the Scottish scene. Within Scotland we all too often concentrate on our weak points, exacerbated by an overwhelmingly anti-independence media which revels in perceived divisions or disagreements within our movement.

Seen from the outside however, observers of Scottish politics are struck by a large, diverse, and powerful grassroots movement which has branches in every part of the country and which is independent of any single political party. They are impressed that the Scottish independence movement has been able to ensure that the topic of Scottish independence isn’t merely normalised in political discourse, it is the most important topic around which the rest of Scottish politics revolves.

There are important similarities between Scotland and Wales. We are both devolved nations within the UK. We both have a long history of trying to assert our identities and political independence in the face of our much larger and more powerful English neighbour.

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We were both scourged by Thatcherism and struggle to make our voices heard within the political structures of the UK.

However there are also some very important differences. On my trip to Caernarfon it was heartening to hear the Welsh language spoken all around. The language appears everywhere, in shop signs and on commercial premises as much as on official signage. People in the street speak the language to one another, and to strangers.

On mistakenly entering a shop which didn’t allow dogs, I was politely informed in Welsh that dogs were not permitted. That wouldn’t have happened in Gaelic speaking districts in Scotland, where in my experience Gaelic speakers only use Gaelic to address those they are familiar with.

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The prominence of the Welsh language means that language issues play an equally prominent role in Welsh independence politics. That’s very different from Scotland, where even those of us who are passionate about Gaelic and Scots recognise that language issues are minor in the independence campaign.

Welsh is the everyday language of some 20% of the Welsh population, and those Welsh speaking districts are the heartland of both Plaid Cymru and pro-independence sentiment.

One of the key aims of Yes Cymru was to bridge the divisions within Wales. Wales can, according to some observers, be categorised into three broad regions.

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There’s Wales Cymraeg, the Welsh speaking areas in the north and West, there’s Welsh Wales, the largely English speaking industrial districts which still have a strong sense of a Welsh identity, and then there’s British Wales, the English speaking regions in the North East and South East which have close ties to their neighbouring regions across the border in England, and where the sense of a Welsh identity is weaker.

Traditionally, Welsh politics have been dominated by the Labour Party, which allied British Wales and Welsh Wales against Wales Cymraeg. Yes Cymru seeks to change that, and to ally Wales Cymraeg with Welsh Wales in order to form a majority which is receptive to the idea of greater self-government, and indeed full independence, for Wales.

Their goal is to do what Yes Scotland has done, and to normalise the idea of independence in Welsh political discourse. The rapidly expanding network of Yes Cymru branches is proof that this idea is falling on fertile ground.

Wednesday night’s talk in the meeting room of a hotel in Caernarfon was packed out, with standing room only. It’s yet more proof that it’s not just in Scotland that there’s a widespread dissatisfaction with the British state, and a sense that if the smaller nations of the UK seek something better, we’re going to have to do it for ourselves.

The enthusiastic attendance at the meeting demonstrated that the energy and willingness is there. People in Wales have been watching Scotland’s experience closely, and are determined to apply the lessons of the Yes Scotland movement to their own circumstances. For me, that was the most heartening aspect of my trip to Wales – the discovery that Scotland is a model that others are learning from.