From independence to abolishing the Senedd: What is the future of the United Kingdom and where does Wales fit?

With the Senedd election around the corner, the state of the union is at the heart of the political discussion.

Party politics is more polarised than ever before. From sticking to the status quo to abolishing the Senedd, federalism, or independence - there are many different options.

Change is happening, but where is it taking us? 

Sharp End presenter Rob Osborne has been to the Rhondda to see what people on Union Street in Ferndale think about the future of the United Kingdom.

Discussing the idea of an independent Wales, one resident said: “Well I think it’s on their minds obviously, especially with Scotland. We don’t want to see them go independent do we? It’s the last thing we want.“

If Scotland were to leave the union, he’d like to see Wales "stick with England”.

Scotland had an independence referendum back in 2014, where the people voted against the idea of an independent Scotland by 55% to 45%.

Since then, the support for Scottish independence has grown, with recent polls showing a majority support for the Yes campaign.

Another resident also thought that "we should all stick together" as "we’re not big enough to be on our own" - but she wouldn’t support abolishing the Senedd.

Mike and Chris, two life-long friends and now next-door neighbours, have been thinking about independence.

One is against the idea of an independent Wales and the other is on the fence. 

He said: “I think they’ve got to give me a long term economic plan. I mean, culturally it would be wonderful to go on our own but I need to be convinced.

“It can’t be a feeling from the heart, it’s got to be a well-thought-out decision because it’s the rest of our lives and our kids and stuff. So it’s got to be based on facts rather than hwyl.”

Rhondda’s Labour MP, Chris Bryant doesn’t believe that there’s any desire for Welsh independence in the area and that if anything, people are "furiously opposed to it".

He said: “There are lots of people locally who feel that Cardiff Bay sometimes is as distant as Westminster. 

“So the idea that the solution to the real historic and endemic problems in valley seats like the Rhondda is yet another round of referendums and constitutional reform, I think is utter nonsense and childish.”

Welsh Labour's official policy is a campaign to reform the union. Former First Minister, Carwyn Jones told Sharp End that he recognises that things need to change and would like to see the UK "become a voluntary partnership of four nations" where they "pool sovereignty".

Another party that wants to see change - but of a different kind - is Abolish the Welsh Assembly. They want to get rid of devolution altogether.

Claire Mills, from Abolish, said: “People want change, whether it's people who support independence or people like us at Abolish who want to end devolution.

"The danger we’ve got is if we don’t make change now, we’ll sleepwalk towards independence. There’s a lot of discontent out there.

“They’re coming to us thinking exactly the same things we do - The Welsh Assembly Senedd is being a drain on resources, wasting the taxpayers' money.”

The Conservatives also want to remain a part of union, with the Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart saying that “it is probably more beneficial and more helpful to be part of the wider union and the UK than it isn’t”.

He said: “It’s as simple as, when things like pandemics come along or where there’s a need to be joined together to maximise our strengths, that option is available.” 

On the other hand, Sion Jobbins, Chair of the non party-political campaign group Yes Cymru, believes that “whatever people’s views on independence in Wales, it changes a lot if Scotland goes because the union literally doesn’t exist” without it.

“We’ve got work to do," he said.

"At the moment, something around 30% of people who say would vote, would vote for independence. That's a huge change in Wales.

"We respect their views and we need to make the argument stronger for independence and that’s what we’re doing. We’re bringing out economic arguments and how that Wales could be a successful independent nation.” 

Plaid Cymru also support Welsh independence with Delyth Jewell telling Rob Osborne that she doesn't want "Wales' fate to be determined by default" or "to be determined by what happens elsewhere".

She said: "That's happened too often in our history. We should make sure that we have this conversation nationally and that we actually talk about the kind of nation that we want to build after Covid, how much fairer a society we can have if we make our decisions ourselves."

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