Every year I receive a household reminder form in order to check who is eligible to vote at my address. Every year the nationality of everyone in our house is listed as “British” by default. Every year I contact electoral services to request everyone at this address be registered as Welsh. This year there was an option to change it to Welsh online, great I thought, so I happily amended the details for all 3 of us. I also contacted electoral services to query why the system annoyingly defaults back to British every year. The response was as follows:
“The Electoral Commission’s advice on this is:
Whilst individuals may choose to write their nationality on a canvass form as ‘English’, ‘Welsh’ or ‘Scottish’ their nationality should be recorded on the Electoral Registration Officer’s systems as British.
This is because the nationality that is relevant for registration purposes is ‘British’ as set out in the British Nationality Act 1981.”
So for the last several years at least, it seems I have been wasting my time , along with many thousands of other people I’m sure across Wales, Scotland and England, asking to be registered under my identity of choice. In my naivety I thought the system would be updated with this information but it would seem it is actually completely ignored because of Electoral Commission guidance. That begs the question, why give people the option to enter their own identity at all? It would seem this is just a token gesture to appease. Literally a meaningless tick box.
Does it matter anyway? Well yes I think it does. Identity is not something anyone can or should impose on someone else, it’s a choice. I respect the fact that people may choose to be registered as British, some may prefer Welsh British and that’s up to them but me, well I’m just Welsh thank you very much. Having spent some time mulling over identity issues, I came to the conclusion a long time ago that I have no idea what being ‘British’ actually means, I don’t identify with that term and it doesn’t have meaning for me in my daily life. For instance, one of the biggest symbols of Britishness is undoubtedly the Union Jack , Wales is not represented on that flag so what is it supposed to mean to me? In what way would I identify with it? Being Welsh however is just a given, that’s what I am, it’s who I am, however unofficial. I suspect that many others in Scotland and England would share that sentiment.
For now at least though, it seems that I have no right to be registered as a Welsh person, there is no right to be Scottish or English either, a British identity will be forced on us all whether we like it or not, dictated by an act of Parliament that is almost 4o years old and an ideology going back a lot further.