Wales has been reclassified as a country instead of a principality by the Geneva-based International Organisation for Standards (ISO).
The ISO, founded in 1947, develops worldwide standards for everything from toohbrushes to medical equipment and rarely enters the political sphere – the ISO’s standards are found on the packaging of items tractors (ISO 3339-0:1986) or medical microscope information packs (ISO 12853:1997).
Many Welsh have long found it infuriating that their country has been termed no more than a principality due to an incorrect historical convention.
Plaid leadership contender and AM Leanne Wood, who had lobbied the ISO for the change welcomed the organisation’s decision.
Ms Wood said: “Wales is a country and has been for many centuries. We have our own unique language and cultures and now a primary law-making legislature. References to Wales being a principality should remain firmly in the past.”
Paul Woodman, the chairman of the British Standards Institution, which is one of the 164 national member bodies of the ISO, confirmed the change in Wales’ status in a letter to Ms Wood.
Mr Woodman said: “The ISO entry originated in a traditional understanding of the status of Wales as given in reference works such as the 1976 Oxford Illustrated Dictionary.
“We were alerted by the Welsh Government to the fact that the notion of Wales as a principality is now outdated, and that Wales should properly be considered a country.
“Having subsequently received an official statement to this effect from that Government, I wrote on behalf of BSI to the ISO Secretariat in Geneva to request that a change be made from principality to country at the first available opportunity.”
Leanne Wood said that the classification of Wales as a country had corrected a historic wrong. The term, The Principality of Wales, had nothing to do with modern day Wales both politically and geographically.
Politically speaking, the term principality refers to a “monarchical feudatory” or sovereign state whose ruling monarch is a prince or a princess with an executive role in administering the state – this is clearly not the case in modern Wales.
Geographically, the historic term relates to lands brought together in 1216 and named the Principality of Wales – these lands didn’t consist of same territory that makes up Wales today.
Leanne Wood said: “It is debatable whether Wales was ever a principality as the territory that existed between 1216 and 1542 was significantly different to the boundaries of modern Wales.”
It was the original Principality of Wales lands brought together in 1216 which were formally united with England by the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542 – not the territory that makes up modern Wales.
Ms Wood raised the issue with the Welsh Government following a constituent, Dai Barnaby from Llantrisant, brought it to her attention in 2010.
Ms Wood said: “I would like to pay tribute to Mr Barnaby for raising this issue with me in the first place and campaigning so vigorously for Wales to be rightly acknowledged as a country.”
Mr Barnaby, an internet Wikipedia editor in his spare time, was motivated to get Wales status corrected after several lengthy debates concerning Wales’ classification as a country with fellow Wikipedia editors.
Mr Barnaby said: “Describing Wales as a principality has no modern geographical or constitutional basis and is contrary to the views of the Welsh Government, academics, commentators, historians and the Welsh population.
“The Principality of Wales existed only between 1216 and 1542 and its area was significantly different to that of modern Wales.
“I was also concerned that describing Wales as a principality may lead people to believe that the Prince of Wales may have some constitutional role in Wales, or that. Wales’ status could be considered to be less than that of the countries of Scotland or England.”
Leanne Wood continues her campaign for the leadership of the Welsh National Party, Plaid Cymru and will press the message that it is time for Wales to move forward as a confident nation.