‘All we do should contribute to the case for real independence’

Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymu’s leader elected today outlines her vision for her party

For too long, Plaid Cymru has been apologetic and evasive on the question of Welsh independence. Our credibility has, in my view, suffered as a result. If the electorate understand anything about what we stand for, most people ‘get’ that we are for Welsh independence. Yet they are unclear as to what we mean by that. We must therefore develop a clear vision of an independent Wales and a plan for getting there.

The result

Leanne Wood beat rivals Elin Jones, AM for Ceredigion, and Lord Elis Thomas, AM for Meirionnydd and Nant Conwy, after gaining an overall 55 per cent when second preference votes were counted. She received the most votes in the first round, with 2,879, when Lord Elis Thomas was eliminated, and gained a further 447 second preference votes, pushing her over the 50 per cent threshold. In the first round of voting Ms Wood won 2879 votes to Ms Jones’ 1884 and Lord Elis-Thomas with 1278. In the second and decisive round Ms. Wood beat Ms. Jones by 3326 votes to 2494. The voting meant that about 75 per cent of Plaid’s membership took part in the postal ballot.

Speaking after the result was announced, Ms Wood, a republican from the left-wing of Plaid Cymru, said she intended to combat “points-scoring and egotism” in politics, and vowed to lead the “people’s party”. She added: “I may not be the leader of the official opposition, but I intend to lead the official proposition.” Ms Jones, AM for Ceredigion, said Ms Wood had won a “handsome victory”, while third-placed Lord Elis Thomas said Plaid had taken “a hugely radical step forward – to elect a feminist of the left”.

We can learn a lot from the SNP’s success, but we are not in the same place as they are, politically or electorally. The ground must be prepared to push independence. We must develop the economic case for Wales becoming an independent state.

We must also recognise that our party was founded with a wider vision than constitutional independence alone. Of course, we seek constitutional independence for our nation, but we seek more than that; what Raymond Williams called “real independence” – genuinely working to end war, inequality and discrimination.

I would recommend both a short and longer-term approach to our aims. Agreement and clarity on our long-term vision should ensure that short-term, day-to-day actions and election campaigning must contribute to, rather than undermine, our longer-term vision. Short-term campaigns should always contribute to greater legislative and fiscal devolution. Everything we do in the short term should contribute towards the case for real independence.

Our long-term vision must be framed in the context of the international economic crisis. We must respond to people’s economic concerns today as well as developing a long-term economic strategy for Wales which aims to equalise Wales’s position with similar sized European nations and regions. Our vision must be one which leaves no-one behind and strives for economic equality within the country. It should also build resilience or counter the long-term threats facing Wales – long-term unemployment and the associated social problems, reduced welfare, lack of security, rising food and energy bills (peak oil), community break-down and climate change.

The choice between a progressive, equal future on the one hand and one where wealth and power is concentrated in the hands of the few on the other has never been starker.

We should also not be apologetic about our progressive policies and values, policies that members consistently support at annual conference. As the crisis deepens, our values supporting sustainability, economic responsibility, a role for the state in the economy, and indigenous rights (versus globalisation) are becoming more mainstream.

Food and fuel ‘sovereignty’ to aim for a healthier population and to build resilience against climate change and peak oil is a green and progressive agenda aimed at reducing dependence by building self-reliance and is one Plaid Cymru should follow.

Our support for the European Union is far too unconditional: we must develop a clear line about the kind of Europe we want to build in the current crisis. We should continue to explicitly state that we are Europeans but that ‘European regionalism’ is wedded to neoliberal economics and imposing uniform rates of fiscal policy across the Union – precisely what we’re arguing against in the UK. We should portray ourselves as the most pro-European party but for a Europe of the peoples, not a Europe of the bosses/markets.

Plaid Cymru has the policy framework and record to position itself firmly in the alternative camp, but to do this, inconsistencies need to be addressed: trust and honesty are essential if we are to persuade people to trust us with our economic/independence vision.

A clear and consistent sustainability/renewable energy policy and the sticking to our policy for a nuclear-free Wales means we should not welcome all jobs, no matter the long-term cost. Short-term individual constituency issues should not be allowed to take precedence over the national interest. But we must recognise that we have a wider responsibility than merely to oppose UK Government plans for our energy, we need to push for an alternative to the technologies of the past, and look to a future which protects the environmental as well as economic futures of our children.

We should rule out a coalition with the Tories, whose leader in Wales opposes stronger devolution, and also recognise that we must isolate those in Labour who stand in the way of further devolution. Apart from the obvious point that we cannot work with people who put so much effort into obstructing our path to independence, such a stance would make the Tories unelectable and irrelevant in Wales, and show how in practical terms our vision will take us on a progressive path, rather than a neo-liberal one. This would help us to convince those people who are currently Labour voters that we are serious about their concerns. Unless we break new ground in the highly populated areas where Labour picks up their seats, we will never become Wales’s largest party.

We must work to shake off the perception that Plaid Cymru is only concerned with the interests of those who speak Welsh, but this must be done in a way that is unapologetic in our support for the Welsh language. We should work to establish the right to speak Welsh as an equalities issue, with protection against discrimination on the grounds of language use. A combination of legislation and public education has changed acceptable public attitudes towards racism, sexism, homophobia, disability. It remains socially acceptable to ridicule and discriminate against people who speak Welsh. Our vision is of an inclusive Wales, where all of us who live here have the right to live in a society which is as equal as we can make it. We must seek to support the necessary and challenging economic, legislative and policy changes to secure the future of the language as a thriving language at a community level.

Leanne Wood is Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales Central

12 thoughts on “‘All we do should contribute to the case for real independence’

  1. “We should work to establish the right to speak Welsh as an equalities issue, with protection against discrimination on the grounds of language use. A combination of legislation and public education has changed acceptable public attitudes towards racism, sexism, homophobia, disability. It remains socially acceptable to ridicule and discriminate against people who speak Welsh. Our vision is of an inclusive Wales, where all of us who live here have the right to live in a society which is as equal as we can make it.”

    All in favour of the above – but you might want to reflect upon the fact that non-Welsh speakers living on and around the Lleyn Peninsula are ridiculed and discriminated against on a daily basis. As a non-Welsh speaker raised in Gwynedd, I can attest to the systemic bigotry, incessant verbal abuse and even physical harm inflicted upon non-Welsh speaking students in the schools of north Wales. Surely the widespread practice of spitting in the face of a child, and referring to them as a “f***ing Saes”, every single day for years, constitutes racism? And when teachers are complacent – or worse, complicit – in this behaviour, you must concede that the social difficulties faced by those living in Wales are by no means limited to Welsh speakers alone?

  2. Lord DET – Will he now pack it in and accept that he is now a liability inside the party with his open support for policies that his forebears would weep at.

    I am male and older than he is but totally support what Leanne stands for; another Welsh learner who will show the way as did the great Gwynfor. All power to her elbow – ymlaen.

  3. If you went to Dyffryn Nantlle you have my sympathy. If you are from a non Welsh speaking home it’s better to travel up to Friars which has a more egalitarian policy when it comes to Language, Race and Sexual orientation. Pupils come from as far north as Holyhead, from the east coast of Ynys Mon and as far South as Criccieth to study at Friars. Many kids move the few hundred yards from Tryfan to Friars when they “don’t fit in” and several more come from Conwy and Bethesda. The school’s policy is “We will not ask any child to study through a language that they are not comfortable with”.

    Leanne Wood will, no doubt, be looking at the legal requirement for LEA’s to provide Welsh medium Schools on demand and extending the same education rights to parents in Gwynedd, Ynys Mon and Ceredigion. I look forward to her piloting a policy that leads to Gwynedd Council canvassing parents to see if any of them want an English medium primary school for their kids. Until this happens I expect that the casual anti-English racism of the schools in the Fro Cymraeg will continue. Perhaps your parents may want to sign up to “Parents for choice”, or you could petition Meri Huws, the Language Equalities Commissioner………Oh no, save your energy on that last suggestion!!

  4. Ysgol Dyffryn Nantlle girl:

    I don’t condone racist behaviour or language whoever is responsible. It is reprehensible. Generally, however, it is Welsh-speakers who have been, and are, at the receiving end. I could recite a number of anecdotes.

    Welsh-speaking children have no choice – they have to learn English. If non-Welsh-speaking people move to live into predominantly Welsh-speaking areas, which are few in number, like Llyn, then there is no reason for them not to learn Welsh. If they choose not to do so, then it is not surprising that their existence is seen as a threat to the community and its language.

  5. We were truly touched by the words and wisdom of Ysgol Dyffryn Nantlle girl – We would welcome people like her to share their experience with http://www.Glasnost.org.uk – We are doing an extensive study upon racial and discriminatory issues in Wales and would appreciate factual input from IWA readers

  6. Great to see the site responding so quickly!

    Leanne’s clear mainstream agenda surely helped her win by such a convincing margin.

    I’m especially pleased to see that Leanne puts the environment at the heart of this agenda. She understands that we live on a finite planet and that Wales must be at the forefront of a green revolution where we tackle climate change and build resilience in the face of rising energy prices. We must grasp the opportunity of renewable energy as the Scots are doing.

    Llongyfarchidau mawr Leanne – now let’s get behind this progressive agenda and build a fair, clean and prosperous independent nation.

  7. Something tells me that ‘Glasnost’ will not be examining the flip side to this discrimination – the political campaigns to restrict the teaching of Welsh in other parts of Wales. Two wrongs ought never to make a right. The graphics of the ‘Glasnost’ site and the language of the headlines are rather disturbing.

  8. I am fully behind the move to tackle global warming and I recognise that this is most likely to succeed if it does not threaten many of the population with fuel poverty. Those twin objectives require hard choices. If we don’t build a barrage or a nuclear power station or develop carbon capture for fossil fuels we shall not be able to reduce carbon emissions at acceptable cost. Wind, wave and solar power will not be enough on their own with any forseeable rate of technical development. Yet Leanne is being green in more senses than one. She rejects all three of the above. Greater hard-headedness and less wishful sentimentality is needed.

  9. I have looked up ‘Glasnost’ and there is nothing in its publications that should be ‘rather disturbing’, except to the Welsh language fanatics, and the political drive of the political/media elite who wish to seperate little Wales from the United Kingdom. The ‘weight’ of resources given to the Welsh state who seemingly want to turn the tide of history by creating a bi-lingual country, out of an almost totally anglicised society is breathtaking, particularly as the use of public money/employment of ‘sympathetic’ place men/women in BBC goes without any real scrutiny. Clearly we do need a seperate body, funded and paid for by public subscription to use the FOI facility, and be able to forensically ascertain where exactly public money is going to prop up a Welsh language that to the vast majority is irrelevant, or at worst a nuisance. I think personally that all people should start sending back all Welsh language documents that they do not require back to sender to register their democratic view on where THEIR money is being spent. Lets hope ‘Glasnost’ gets plenty of support and the tide can be turned back, and public money, which is in short supply, and going to get worse gets spent on projects for the many and not the few.

  10. I have recently contacted Searchlight about the contents of both glasnost.org.uk and the gogwatch website and suspect them both of being front websites for the BNP and their fellow travellers.

    Both websites/groups demonstrate (in common with the far-right in Wales) a hatred of the Welsh Language and Welsh Devolution, a loathing of Plaid Cymru and attack all mainstream political parties, except those from the far-right, for being in hock to the Welsh language activists and devolutionists.

    Just look at a recent item on the Gogwatch website entitled “I come from Pembrokeshire – the Welsh language doesn’t belong here” – hardly a message of tolerance for the thousands of Welsh Language speakers in the county.

    Another article on Gogwatch entitled “So you’re considering Welsh medium education” – states with no evidence that “Some ex WM (Welsh Medium) employees do not have the best reputation in the work place. They are seen as disruptive, putting up “Where’s the Welsh?” stickers and discussing non-Welsh speaking colleagues in Welsh amongst themselves. There is also some anecdotal evidence that their standard of English is not always up to scratch.”

    Contributors to the Gogwatch messageboard also inhabit boards such as that on Walesonline.co.uk and frequently demonstrate a proud dislike of the EU and immigration.

  11. Would independence mean exactly that? Would Wales have its own NHS or similar? Would wales have its own social security? Would it have a president /leader?
    Would a visa or passport be required? What about its own military/defence? These questions could go on and on. Would Wales finance itself? These are the questions the public want answers to. If wales wants to be independent, it should be self governing and self supporting .

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