National Identities in Wales Since Devolution: The Persistence of Britishness

In the preceding section, we discussed the efforts of political parties in Wales to adapt their appeal to fit the changing constituency within devolved Welsh elections. Evidence from surveys, however, does not point to an accompanying change in Welsh identity after devolution. From an assessment of the available survey data, neither an increase in identification as Welsh nor a concomitant decline in British identification is evident at the popular level. Curtice (2013) presents data using the Moreno scale to examine how national identification in Wales has changed since devolution in 1997. The overall answer is that national identification has changed very little and most people in Wales continue to opt for a dual Welsh and British identity. The period between 1997 and 2012, notwithstanding some fluctuations, saw a small rise in the proportion of people considering themselves ‘Welsh not British’ (from 17 % in 1997 to 21 % in 2012). However, this is more than outweighed by a pronounced decrease in those seeing themselves as ‘More Welsh than British’ (from 26 % in 1997 to 17 % in 2012) (Curtice 2013: 15). Moreover, the proportion of people identifying themselves as ‘British not Welsh’ also increased in this period from 12 to 17 %. It is also worth noting that the ‘British not Welsh’ figure in 2011 was 20 %. Thus the evidence from the Moreno question is actually of a marginal tilt towards British and away from Welsh identity in Wales over the devolution period. In Table 6.1 we compare the extent of Britishness in Wales with Scotland and England using 2012 data.

Compared to the Scottish case, the proportion of those in Wales who place their Welsh identity ahead of their British identity is far lower, 38 % in Wales compared to 53 % in Scotland. Conversely, the proportion giving greater weight to a British identity is much higher in Wales (25 %) than Scotland (11 %) and is also higher than in England (18 %). Data from the 2011 census also shed some further light on these patterns and provides some information on English identification in Wales (CoDE 2013b). According to the Census, 58 % of people in Wales report an exclusively Welsh identity. This is much higher than the figure for ‘Welsh not British’ in the Moreno scale and reflects an important difference in the way the question is asked. However, the Census also showed that 35 % of people did not report a Welsh identity at all and that just under half of these identified as ‘English only’. There is also a notable age difference here, whereby English-only identity, as a minority identity in Wales, is as low as 6 % for those up to seventeen years old but increases with each group to 17 % for those over seventy-five years old. In contrast a Welsh-only identity is, at 73 %, highest amongst those up to seventeen years old, whilst British-only identity is consistent across age groups. Amongst those who are English-born in Wales, 49 % identify as English

Table 6.1 Moreno national identity in Wales, Scotland and England in 2012

Wales

(%)

Scotland

(%)

England

(%)

Welsh/Scottish/English not British

21

23

17

More Welsh/Scottish/English than British

17

30

12

Equally Welsh/Scottish/English and British

35

30

44

More British than Welsh/Scottish/English

8

5

8

British not Welsh/Scottish/English

17

6

10

Source: Figures for Wales adapted from Curtice (2013); figures for Scotland and England adapted from Curtice et al. (2013) only, compared to 31 % for British only and only a small percentage of these reporting some form of Welsh identity (9 %). What these data suggest, therefore, is that English identity is the preferred option for older English in-migrants in Wales. Much of the relatively higher English and British identification amongst Welsh residents can be explained by the fact that Wales has a higher proportion of non-Welsh-born population. However, attachments to Britishness are also to be found amongst people who would otherwise report a proud Welsh identity.

 
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