THE leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood has called on the people of Wales to place their faith in the party but accepted that Plaid Cymru needs to earn their trust if they are to lead the nation in government. Speaking at the Plaid Cymru conference in Caernarfon the Plaid Cymru leader spoke on a number of issues affecting Wales.
At the beginning of her speech she spoke about the issue of independence for Wales and events in Catalonia saying that Wales needed a strong voice. She said that the desire to chart our (Wales) own course in the world is one we share with other nations and that unlike the Welsh Government’s response to events in Catalonia, Plaid Cymru’s condemnation was unequivocal.
Reflecting on events during her term of office as leader of Plaid Cymru she said that the local council elections had been the basic foundation block for building strong communities and that Plaid Cymru had made the second highest gains in local elections of any party in the UK and had also increased their majorities in general elections and gained a fourth parliamentary seat.
Speaking about the National Level Budget Agreement she said that Wales could see a Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway, improvements to the A470 and the A487 and that the agreed budget had also helped to protect the ‘Supporting People Grant’.
Speaking about the grant she said: “This fund helps to prevent homelessness. I am sure you would all have noticed the growth in street sleeping in our country.”
Touching briefly on other measures she said that Plaid Cymru had further secured commitment on business rates relief, more budget increases for mental health funding and funding towards a power plant to secure the future of Tata Steel.
Addressing the conference Leanne Wood said: “Conference let me be clear. While the other Opposition parties whinge for Wales Plaid Cymru delivers.”
The Plaid Leader criticised the record of the WAG and said that after 18 years of Labour Wales needed change and said: “We recognise while we have been able to influence they have watered down proposals for a medical school in Bangor. They have now dropped the proposed plan to create an in house energy company to benefit people in Wales. They have refused to lift the NHS pay Cap. Plaid Cymru is still piling on the pressure on Welsh Government. We will continue to exert that pressure as they press ahead with the M4 black route. We will not allow them to refuse to explore affordable alternatives.”
On welfare reform the Plaid Cymru leader said: “Let’s look at where Labour in Wales stands on decisions about Universal Credits, Housing Benefit and all the welfare reforms that are responsible for the rise in homelessness which is causing a linked spike in drug related deaths. The truth is that Labour in Wales would prefer those decisions to be taken by The Tories in London than to make better and different decisions here in Wales.”
Leanne Wood made it clear that Plaid Cymru would be challenging the WAG to mitigate what she called ‘Westminster’s cruel welfare agenda’.
Speaking on the issue of devolution she said: “In its most basic form devolution should be a defensive shield against the worst excesses of Westminster Government. In its most advanced form devolution should allow governments to innovate. Wales is failing on both of those counts. It doesn’t need to be this way and with Plaid Cymru there is a better way.”
Leanne Wood claimed that there were major changes facing the Welsh nation and that governments at both ends of the M4 seemed unable and unwilling to withstand the threats to Wales’ nationhood. She expressed her dissatisfaction with the way in which the EU withdrawal was being carried out saying that it was a threat to the Welsh economy and the constitution. She claimed that the tories were pursuing a reckless negotiating strategy and risked plunging the British state into crisis. “The Tory cabinet are stuck, playing a game of deal or no deal.” she said.
Addressing the conference she said: “When a Special status within the single market could be on the table for Northern Ireland and Scotland, Wales needs its own solution. This country voted to leave EU but there was no vote on leaving the single market.
“We need a twin track approach A Plaid Cymru Government would be prepared for every possible scenario when it comes to future relations with the EU.”
She spoke of an active industrialist and exports strategy and suggested that Plaid Cymru would set up a Brexit preparedness fund including a ‘Brexit Self Assessment Tool’ for business and that firms could make applications to the WAG for assistance.
The Plaid Cymru leader spoke about the collapse of Welsh industry in recent years and said: “With Plaid Cymru there will never be a return to deindustrialisation. Our communities paid too heavy a price for unforgivable inaction in the past. We will not let that happen again.”
The Second track she said was to watch the unfolding Brexit process ‘like hawks’. Addressing the conference she said: “We will do everything in our power to protect the Welsh national interest. The Party of Wales is committed to guaranteeing every single pound of funding received by our agricultural sector.
“We are also committed to upholding European environmental, social and human rights standards. If the Welsh government doesn’t do it we will publish our own continuity bill to enshrine the very highest regulations and protections for our environment and for our society and if any Westminster government wants to take us to court to stop us then I say to them, ‘bring it on’.”
The leader was clear on Plaid Cymru’s stance on the single market issue. She said: “We are not giving up the fight to stay in single market and Customs Union.”
She insisted that if we were to leave without a deal, people must have the opportunity to reject through a public vote or parliamentary democracy.
The Plaid Cymru leader touched on numerous issues including the rights of EU citizens and families already living in Wales.
There was a message of a disconnected Wales and Plaid Cymru’s intentions to link up the nation with an all Wales approach, a rail revolution with South to North links and
ambitious plans to create a Metro for Swansea Bay and the Valleys region. She said that the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway would be key to revitalise.
Claiming that no other party had taken forward an all Wales agenda she said that she wanted to improve the skills base and address inequality within wales and within the UK as a whole. She said: “There is a Wales and UK wide wealth gap with no sign of a WAG strategy to close it.”
The focus she said would be on tackling poverty, unemployment, low wages and education. She also spoke of Plaid’s belief in humanity and compassion.
She promised that for students returning, or staying in Wales Plaid Cymru would reduce tuition costs, and implement a substantial programme of post graduate opportunities, living and work spaces support self employment support social enterprises and cooperatives. She wanted to Work with trade unions education providers in work training for up to 290,000 Welsh workers whose jobs she claimed could be at risk through automation.
Plaid’s commitments she said were to child care, free comprehensive pre school education for all. She said that there was nothing short of a sea change in the way that education is linked to the economy.
The Plaid Cymru leader promised that the party would restore Wales’ good name. She said: “We don’t do what we do because we want to create a Little Britain in Wales. We want Wales to be a distinct political entity with politics centred on community and cooperation.” The Tories she said offered austerity and a vague promise of a British dream and that Labour offered only centralising solutions with no regard for Wales.”
Plaid’s approach she said would be change from bottom up and acknowledged that community action was the way ahead given that services mattered to people. She said that people lose hope and believe that politics has failed them and that the answer was not to wait
but do it ourselves. The Plaid leader called for a rolling up of sleeves and an end to dependence.
Leanne Wood announced that following conference she would be undertaking a tour of community meetings across the country. She said: “We will build the foundations of our next manifesto on practical community action. Plaid Cymru in your street building the nation and strengthening our communities.”
She reminded the conference that it has been 20 years since the referendum, which established devolution. Devolution she said was to make things better and that in too many cases it has been the opposite.
Speaking of the struggle many people face in Wales she said: “The system is stacked against you if you are disabled, poor or have mental health problems.”
In concluding Leanne Wood said that the greatest prize of all was the trust of the people in Wales to lead their government. She said: “Plaid Cymru exists to empower the people of Wales so that we can do more for ourselves. We have the ideas and the ambition to show a new way for Wales. The future of Wales depends on Plaid Cymru stepping forward with solutions. Now is the time to decide what our new wales could look like.”
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