Over the weekend of 10 and 11 June, Yes Cymru held its first annual conference in Aberystwyth. Somehow, I found myself on the Question Time panel. I had been warned that this might be a very difficult 90 minutes for a Welsh Conservative, but the experience was different with lots to learn.

Apart from the Lib Dems and the Greens, all political parties were represented on the panel, including Gwlad who are a right of centre pro-independence party.

Lloyd Warburton, an Aberystwyth University student represented the Welsh Youth Parliament, and his knowledge, maturity and eloquence were impressive.

The session was chaired by Will Hayward of Wales Online who did an excellent job and the debate was courteous and thoughtful; just how politics should be in a democratic country.

There were four main topics, including The Crown Estate in Wales, two party domination of UK politics, the impact of Australia/New Zealand trade deals on rural Wales, and Gordon Brown’s Commission on UK constitutional reform. Just like the panel, the audience seemed to represent a broad range of age, occupation and opinion; I say that based on recognising several faces in the room.

People take what they want from a discussion like this, so it would be wrong for any one participant to present “conclusions”.

Inevitably at a Yes Cymru meeting either people are going to be in support of independence, or (like me) joining a debate and learning. In truth, as a pro-unionist I was almost certainly in a minority of one. A lamb in the lions’ den!

A movement like Yes Cymru is also at risk of being hijacked by radical groups advocating extreme programmes, verging on anarchy. In fairness, there was none of that and the strong impression is that the leadership of Yes Cymru wish to exclude all that nonsense, which is to their great credit.

The majority of participants appear to support independence as a virtuous end in itself. They have convinced themselves that this will allow for better government leading to a better Wales, however that is defined.

The risk for them is that they talk only to themselves and fail to subject ideas to rigorous scrutiny. It is very easy to become convinced that a “good idea” will pan out well in the real world.

I wasn’t at the first day when there was a presentation on how Modern Monetary Theory would allow a newly independent country to thrive. But the presenter was kind enough to send me his slides. In reality, many people including those on the left will share genuine anxiety about MMT. The clue is in the name; theory! Issues of currency, raising debt and historical debt etc do not seem to have been fully thought through.

The politics of all this is intriguing, and possibly more important than many people realise.

My bet is that there is a wide spectrum of opinion within most of the pro-independence parties, and therefore considerable overlap between them.

So for example Labour is a pro-union party, and yet within it there is a well-established “Labour for an Independent Wales” group.

Sir Keir Starmer won’t want to lose his Welsh seats, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Likewise, Plaid Cymru seems to represent a very broad political church, with the recent leadership being quite far to the left.

To my certain knowledge there are loyal rural Plaid supporters who have little time for socialism, so again there are issues to resolve.

Maybe these internal contradictions will benefit established parties, or perhaps new ones like Gwlad.

Time will tell.

For those in favour of independence, there is a major challenge getting disparate groups to agree on policy.

Yes Cymru deserves to be taken seriously. If nothing else it represents significant dissatisfaction with our current democratic settlement, and main stream politicians should wake up to this.

Almost by definition it means that Devolution is currently failing to deliver, and on that almost everyone seemed to be in agreement.

Before embarking on yet more change, maybe it is time to try to get Devolution working properly and make Wales a better country? If that’s what people want, then it’s time for a change of Welsh Government in Cardiff. Time for parties of different political persuasions to coalesce around pragmatic solutions.

Thank you to Yes Cymru for organising a very well run and thoughtful debate.