Thursday, 28 September 2017

Right to be Welsh?


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.


Cathie Lloyd said...

This is awful. Can you remember what options there are for the census? The last one would have been 2011. I was working at the Commission for Racial Equality prior to the 1991 census and we introduced a category called Other, which though not great, did mean you could write in Welsh or Anglo-Welsh in my case. i'm wondering whether the tories have changed this, although I know the electoral register and the census are quite different,I wouldnt put it past them.

Plaid Queensway said...

I can't remember what was on the census to be honest. Electoral services in Wrexham weren't clear on this so sought advice from the electoral commission following my query to them, so this is the most up to date advice. I don't know if it's a recent change or not though, it's a 1981 Act they refer to but there are often updates and revisions so assuming this one would be no different.

Anonymous said...

If you're Welsh, you know the reason as well as I do why Wales is not represented on the Union Jack. Wales was conquered by the English while Scotland,and England were joined together following the death of Queen Elizabeth 1, who dying childless, left the Crown to the Stuarts of Scotland. Therefore Saint George and Saint Andrews were united on the Union Jack. However; calm down! Wales has something no one else has, they have the Prince of Wales, as the heir to the throne of Britain. Wales is as much a part of Britain as any of the other 3 countries. We need unity not division. Get passionate about being British. It's the best thing in the world anyone could be!