The far-right British National Party has been accused of hijacking images of popular figures from Welsh and Scottish history.
The right-wing group's merchandise website, Excalibur, is selling items emblazoned with images of St George, William Wallace and Owain Glyndwr together with slogans such as "British by birth, Welsh by the grace of God". The BNP claims the idea is to draw on Scottish, Welsh and English history to "introduce the idea of nationalism to a total stranger". But the merchandise has caused bitter consternation across the UK.
Dafydd Wigley, the former Plaid Cymru leader, also condemned the merchandise: "I find it very distasteful that the BNP would hijack the image of Owain Glyndwr in an attempt to further their cause in Wales."
Glyndwr led the historic revolt against English rule and was the last native Welshman to be proclaimed the Prince of Wales on 16 September 1400. A 4.5m high bronze statue of Glyndwr mounted on a horse was presented to the people of Corwen, Denbighshire – the town of Glyndwr's birth – in September 2007 at a cost of £125,000.
The sculptor Colin Spofforth spent four years creating it and said he was "shocked" when he found out it was being used by the BNP. "First of all, what they have done is against the law," he told The Western Mail. "I certainly did not give any permission for it to be used and I never would have done."
Another statue of Glyndwr stands in the Princes' Memorial Garden in St Peter ad Vincula Church in Pennal. Rev Geraint ap Iorwerth said Glyndwr would be "turning in his grave" if he knew the BNP were using him as one of their heroes. "Glyndwr was not a racist or a bigot in any shape or form."
The BNP has yet to win seats in the Welsh Assembly or any council seats. Yet mainstream politicians are worried that the party could be growing in popularity. In the 2007 Welsh elections the party fielded 20 candidates, coming fifth behind the major parties in some areas.
The BNP's adoption of William Wallace, who led the resistance in the Wars of Scottish Independence, highlights the misgivings of Jim Murphy, Secretary of State for Scotland, who warned against "complacency" after this year's European elections which saw the BNP win two seats. "We all know that they are racists and anti-Semites, but their vote in Scotland has gone from near zero 10 years ago to 27,000 at the European elections," he said.
John Walker, the BNP national treasurer, defended the T-shirts this weekend, saying the party was using the images in a positive way.
"The BNP is Britain's foremost patriotic party and represents English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh people," he said. "Anyone who criticises it has got a political axe to grind."Reuse content