The coming year will be an extremely important for Wales. The tectonic plates of the United Kingdom will shift after the referendum in Scotland in September, providing fresh opportunities for Wales to maximise the powers we have – the set of tools we need to do the job of turning around our declining economy.
Plaid Cymru’s focus has been and will continue to be building the Welsh economy. People will be better off and will be able to better make ends meet if we can build a flourishing economy with plentiful, good, and well-paid work. The wider context: cuts to public services and our social security safety net, the rising cost of living and more “austerity” on the way, provide great challenges. That context also provides us with a good reason to build up greater resilience so that we can plan to deal with these threats. Do we really have a choice?
Looking ahead to 2014
This week the four party leaders in the National Assembly and set out their hopes for the New Year. On Monday we published the reflections of Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones, and yesterday those of Conservative leader Andrew R.T. Davies. Tomorrow we hear from Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
It is up to us to improve our economic situation. If we don’t do it for ourselves, who else will do it for us? And why can’t we? If it is made a priority, and if there is determination to see through a long-term plan, there is no reason why our economy can’t be a success.
We will be contesting the European Parliamentary election in May on the basis that Plaid Cymru is the only party to put Wales first, every time.
We want to work with people in other countries across Europe to deliver decent pay, rights, terms and conditions. We also want to build on relationships with other nations and regions so that we can maintain the structural funds aimed at reducing the inequalities between Wales and other comparative European countries. The benefits for Wales from structural funds and agricultural support must be maximised by the Welsh Government. We must make sure those funds deliver the best possible outcomes, in partnership and working with industry to help more businesses stay in business, safeguarding and creating jobs.
Plaid Cymru supports the principle of co-operation between the countries and regions of Europe. Being in the EU is in the best interests of Wales and of working people. That’s not to say we don’t want to change the EU. It can work better for Wales.
In the Euro elections, Plaid Cymru’s position will be pro-European and against the politics of hate which aims to exclude other cultures and isolate the UK from the rest of Europe. Ours is the polar-opposite position to those parties espousing xenophobia and intolerance.
The Party of Wales wants to see our country be able to stand in its own two feet, without need for handouts from elsewhere and we maintain that there is no reason why we cannot achieve that. For too long Welsh people have been prepared to accept second best. We have been prepared to shrug off poor performance or languishing at the bottom of all of the league tables.
I would like to see 2014 as the year when Wales says no to mediocrity. I’d like it to be the year that our government makes a determined push to end poor economic performance and inequality. I would like us to make 2014 the year where we decide that we will make sure that no child in Wales will fail to reach her or his best educational potential.
Historically we have valued education. A strong economy requires a well-educated population. We can’t afford to fail on this. And I would like to see us make this next year one where people’s deep and real concerns about health centralisation are heard and acted upon so that we can create a health service that is fully accessible to all, able to deliver services to people in good time.
Let’s make 2014 the year we aim to be the best. Let us make it the year to demonstrate confidence in our abilities to do more and better for ourselves.