By Hefin Edwards
Last week Theresa May announced plans for a ‘Festival of Britain’ which has reopened the debate around ‘Britishness’. On being ‘British’, Former Plaid leader Gwynfor Evans said: “Britishness is a political synonym for Englishness which extends English culture over the Scots, Welsh, and the Irish”, although not something which is completely true, England always been the dominant force in British national identity.
In Wales, 58% of people identify as only Welsh according to the 2011 Census, but that’s still less than the percentage of people who identify as just Scottish or English in the rest of the UK. National identity in Wales is weaker than anywhere else in the UK, but why?
It’s because, unlike other parts of the UK, the people of Wales live in a country without their own media and state institutions. Wales’ bank is the bank of England, most of the main newspapers are based in London, even BBC Wales news is classed as ‘regional’ news. Despite the existence of the National Assembly, Westminster is still seen as the real seat of power, just look at the turnout in Assembly elections compared to those of Westminster: most people are even more apathetic towards electing AM’s than they are for MP’s!
These British institutions play a huge role in shaping our identity, and whereas most people don’t associate directly with being British, by viewing their lives through the dimension of these institutions most people experience a ‘banal Britishness’ which is a quiet, almost subconscious association with the institutions of the British state. This is true of young as well as old people. They might express this in different ways, the British Social Attitudes survey suggests that younger people view being ‘British’ as less reliant on ethnicity than older generations. Regardless of how this British identity manifests itself, the fact that it is deeply embedded within our institutions means it is still relevant and still has a large impact on Welsh identity.