When Scottish independence was being discussed in 2014, the economist and statesman, Vince Cable, referred to the plight of Iceland following the credit crunch as an example of the disadvantages facing small nation states and of the advantages of being part of larger units like the UK. In particular, her predicted, the Royal Bank of Scotland would abandon the newly independent state, leaving it much more vulnerable in the case of a further banking crisis.1 The point was well made, but only covered half the story, since Iceland, although smaller than Cornwall in terms of population, has long put the economic crisis behind it, and has done so largely by reforming its banking industry,2 while the UK remains mired in disaster.

The causes of that disaster also relate to the question of Scottish independence from the UK, and the fate of all four of its Celtic nations. Austerity, which trampled our economic recovery3 and caused the deaths of 130,000 of our fellow citizens,4 arose from a belief in the benign efficiency of the unregulated market which is England's dominant political position. Brexit, as research by Michael Kenny has shown, relates to English self-pity at the loss of empire, English self-pity at the rise of the Celtic nations, and English self-pity at being bound by treaties and international laws,5 while England's Covid response expressed the same vapid narcissism of its leaders, the same disdain for science, the same recklessness with regard to life as was shown under the far-right governments of America and Brazil.6

In Wales our comparatively sane response to Brexit (negotiating continued membership of Erasmus and Horizon, arranging our own meetings with European leaders when the UK government refused us access to theirs7) and to the pandemic (reacting to rising infection rates swiftly, first seeking to act in partnership with the UK government before using such powers as British laws had given us to protect the lives of our citizens8) arose not because we are a nation of warriors, or even because we are a nation of poets, or because we won the war, or because we were Cŵl Cymru once, or even because it is only the elites and traitors who are holding us back. It arose because we understand that we are no better than other nations, that nature is indifferent to us, that history, given long enough, will surely forget about us, but that other nations in mainland Europe and beyond are open to being our friends. Our history has taught us not to assume that the sun shines out of our arse. If we were looking for Article 1 of the Republic of Wales’s constitution, we could do far worse than that one.

1. Mark Leftly, ‘RBS risks an Iceland-style crisis if Scots pick self-rule, warns Vince Cable.’ The Independent, 6th February 2014.

2. Elizabeth Matsangou, ‘Failing banks, winning economy: the truth about Iceland’s recovery.’ World Finance: The Voice of the Market, 15th September 2015.

3. Larry Elliott. ’UK economy £100bn smaller because of austerity – thinktank.’ The Guardian, 21st February 2019.

4. Toby Helm, ‘Austerity to blame for 130,000 “preventable” UK deaths – report.’ The Guardian, 1st June 2019.

5. ‘The Genesis of English Nationalism.’ Centre on Constitutional Change, 30th August 2016.

6. Adam Forrest, ‘Inside Politics: Sage scientists wanted Boris Johnson to impose full lockdown.’ The Independent, 13th October 2020. Lawrence O Gostin, Harold Hongju Koh, Michelle Williams, Margaret A Hamburg, Georges Benjamin, William H Foege et al. ‘US withdrawal from WHO is unlawful and threatens global and US health and security.’ The Lancet, 9th July 2020. Maya Oppenheim, ‘Expletive-filled video of Bolsonaro swearing at cabinet meeting released by Brazil's Supreme Court.’ The Independent, 23rd May 2020.

7. ‘Drakeford stepped up direct diplomacy with Brussels after Downing Street Brexit bust-up.’ Nation Cymru, 25th October 2020. Owen Donovan, ‘Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to be shut out of post-Brexit trade negotiations.’ Senedd Home: Making Sense of Welsh Politics, 3rd March 2020.

8. ‘No.10 rejects First Minister's letter calling for travel ban into Wales.’ ITV News, 14th October 2020.

Image of the Parliament of Iceland taken from Wikimedia Commons

f t e

I am the author of three short story collections. Reasoning and For His Warriors, originally published by Gwasg y Bwthyn, Caernarfon, with Welsh Books Council support, now join Prayer at the End in revised editions at Cockatrice Books. My anthology of fiction, Dangerous Asylums: Stories from Denbigh Mental Hospital Told by Leading Welsh Writers, including work by Gee and David Williams, Glenda Beagan, Carys Bray, Simon Thirsk and others, was published by the North Wales Mental Health Research Project, October 2016. I was a contributor with Nigel Jarrett, Rachel Trezise, Tristan Hughes and others to Brush with Fate, an anthology of Welsh fiction translated by Hala Salah Eldin. I am a member by election of the Welsh Academy.

I am the translator of Going South: The Stories of Richard Hughes Williams (Cockatrice, 2015), Hallowe’en in the Cwm: The Stories of Glasynys (Cockatrice, 2017), and A Book of Three Birds, the seventeenth-century classic by Morgan Llwyd (Cockatrice, 2017). In addition, I have translated fiction by D. Gwenallt Jones, Angharad Tomos, and Manon Steffan Ros.