Plaid Cymru Drops the Ball

The Independence Commission’s new report is a mess of ideas which serves only to stunt the movement, argues Dr John Ball.

As a young man, like most men in Wales, I played rugby. And not very well I might add.

I do though remember a golden rule – when in doubt, slow down the game by kicking for touch, preferably in the exceptionally long grass and hopefully change the direction of the game.

It seems that the leadership of Plaid Cymru has re-invented this golden rule and applied it to politics in twenty first century Wales. Kick for touch, change the subject to muddy the debate and divert attention away from the real issue: Plaid Cymru’s Independence Commission is an outstanding example of this classic diversionary strategy.

The phenomenal growth in the demand for independence shown through the activities of Yes Cymru, Labour for independence, other non-political groups and two new political parties whose very existence speaks volumes, Plaid Cymru needed to pretend to do something.

The first thing to do is to deter readers and commentators. The report is 225 pages (there are more interesting things to read) and to obtain a full copy the party expects potential readers to provide personal contact details and to sign up to party hype. 

The second thing is genius; suggest unclear, confused and unworkable alternatives together with an incomparably stunning idea; a referendum to decide on a referendum.

The report calls for multi-choice exploratory referendum to “gauge views and thus have a clear understanding of the issues.” So, the choices: abolish the Senedd, the status quo, expanded Senedd powers, federalism, federation, independence? A guaranteed way to encourage confusion, provide any number of choices and thus ensure no clear result.

Those seeking leadership must look elsewhere. It will not come from Plaid Cymru.”

Then apparently, a further “binary” referendum with two questions; the status quo versus the outcome of the exploratory referendum – what happens if that outcome is (say) abolition or the status quo? What happens then?

The confusion continues. Before the exploratory referendum there would be the establishment of a “Statutory National Commission” and citizens assemblies to “test the views” and draw up a written constitution apparently before the exploratory referendum. It is impossible to think of anything more utterly pointless. 

The phraseology here is interesting, the commission will apparently “ensure maximum awareness, participation and involvement.” 

Is that not possible in an upfront independence debate?

Tucked away in the report is the suggestion of yet another referendum, this time on whether to keep the Queen as head of state. Whilst this might be a legitimate issue at some time in the future, whether we like it or not most Welsh people support the monarchy and such a referendum is potentially both heated and divisive.

Another excellent way to start a superfluous debate which would have the great advantage of further confusing the real debate on our national future.

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Overall, the shabbiness of the party’s approach to independence is clearly illustrated with its notion that a “cold turkey” break with the UK would be “difficult financially.” The party seems entirely unaware of research and evidence showing that this is not the case.

In interviews following the release of the report, the leader of Plaid Cymru said that “we are already on a journey to independence.” A move to save face and hide the party’s continued insincerity and duplicitous on the question of independence so clearly and inescapably demonstrated by the report.

With a reactionary, clumsy Westminster government happily ignoring international law, shouting at Europe, and trying to destroy the little national democracy we have, there has never been a more important time for an unequivocal commitment to national freedom.

Those seeking leadership must look elsewhere. It will not come from Plaid Cymru.

There is a case for a referendum – just one. Independence, yes or no.

All articles published on the welsh agenda are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.

Dr. John Ball is former lecturer in economics at Swansea University.

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