Nation profile


General information
3,170,000 inhabitants (2020 Welsh government estimate)
20,779 km²
National Assembly for Wales
Major cities
Cardiff (capital), Swansea, Newport, Wrexham, Aberystwyth
State administration
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Territorial languages
Welsh, English
Official languages
Welsh, English
Major religion
Christianity, mainly Anglican (Church in Wales), with Catholic and Presbyterian minorities
National day
1 March (Saint David's Day)


Wales is one of four home countries that make up the United Kingdom. It is located in the western part of Great Britain, to the west of England.

Wales emerged as a political unit in the Middle Ages, enjoying periods of independence at the time. It was annexed in 1283 by English king Edward I, but the various Welsh principalities continued to exist under the English crown. From 1400 to 1415 Owain Glyndŵr led a failed revolt against English domination. Wales was completely incorporated into the legal system of England in 1542.

The first Welsh nationalist organizations were founded at the end of the 19th century. Labour and the Liberal Party undertook autonomy demands at the beginning of the 20th century. The biggest Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru, was born in 1925.

Even so, it was not until 1979 that a first referendum on the autonomy of Wales was held. Devolution was widely rejected. In 1997 a second referendum took place, in which 50.3% voters approved the creation of the National Assembly of Wales. Devolution was further expanded in 2006.

Welsh Assembly laws needed to obtain the approval of the UK Parliament. This situation came to an end in 2011, after a third referendum in which Welsh people voted to abolish such restriction.


Welsh, a Celtic language, is the country’s own language. It has official status alongside English. It is spoken, mostly in the western half of Wales, by 562,000 people (19% of the population, 2011 census). Tens of thousands more speakers are found in England and the Welsh-speaking community of Chubut, in Argentina’s Patagonia region. Cymdeithas yr Iaith is the main pro-Welsh language grassroots organization.

National identity

At the 2021 census, 63% of Wales’s population declared their national identity to be Welsh (55% only Welsh, and 8% Welsh and another identity).

The 2011 census had reported that 66% of the country’s population declared their national identity to be Welsh, 26% British, 14% English and 4%, another. (The addition exceeds 100% as multiple identities could be chosen.)

Politics and government

Wales exercises its autonomy, or devolution, through its self-governing institutions. The National Assembly is the country’s legislature; the Welsh Government exercises executive power. The areas over which Wales has responsibility are 20, including education, health, culture, tourism, Welsh language, agriculture, transport, and economic development, among others.

Centre-left, pro-independence Plaid Cymru (est. 1925) is the main Welsh-only party. Since the National Assembly’s inception, the party has always had elected AMs, has been receiving between 19% and 28% of the votes in Welsh elections, and has been the junior partner of one Welsh coalition government, led by the Labour Party, from 2007 to 2011.

Gwlad party (established in 2018) is also pro-independence, but centre-right. In 2020, a former Plaid Cymru AM established a third pro-independence party, Propel. Gwynedd regionalist party, Llais Gwynedd, has elected members at the county and local levels. None of these three parties has seats in the Welsh Assembly. 

All other parties in the National Assembly are Welsh branches of the UK-wide parties: Welsh Labour, Welsh Conservatives, Welsh Liberaldemocrats and UKIP Wales.

A special case is that of the Wales Green Party (green politics, center-left), being a semi-autonomous branch of the Green Party of England and Wales. Since 2020 the party advocates independence for Wales.

Civil society groups Yes Cymru and AUOB Cymru promote Welsh independence.

First minister: Mark Drakeford, Welsh Labour Party (since 2018)
Distribution of seats in Parliament (2021 election). 60 members:
Welsh Labour Party - 30
Welsh Conservative Party - 16
Plaid Cymru - 13
Welsh Liberal Democrats - 1
Electoral system: Plurality voting system (first-past-the-post) in 40 electoral districts and proportional representation in the other 20.
Government: Welsh Labour Party.


Language and Culture
Comisiynydd y Gymraeg (Welsh Language Commissioner)
Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society)
S4C, television in Welsh
Golwg 360, Welsh language news website
South Wales Echo, Welsh newspaper in English
South Wales Evening Post, Welsh newspaper in English

(Last updated December 2022.)