It’s time for Plaid to make the case for independence

Cardiff Castle. Picture: Michel Curi (CC BY 2.0)

 

Iwan Morgan

With a couple of notable exceptions, Plaid Cymru had a very disappointing election night.

The Arfon result was sobering; although it should be remembered that it’s a university city and that this seat was actually a Plaid gain from Labour in 2010 when first contested under new boundaries.

The biggest disappointment was Ynys Môn, where a high-profile former leader came a humiliating third behind a Conservative candidate that had no apparent connection with the island.

So what of the future? Is there any hope to offer for Plaid and the nationalist movement?

Yes, but only as long as Plaid Cymru put independence back on the agenda.

It’s the one USP which distinguishes them from all other parties. Yet for some reason, they never seem to want to talk openly about it.

Plaid’s excuse at this election was that the debate became polarised around the contrasting ideologies of Corbyn and May.

But instead of moaning about this, Plaid need to force their own polarisation by offering the electorate something explicitly different to their rivals.

They have to create their own political weather, rather than complain that it’s raining.

The issues Plaid campaigned on – social justice, income equality, public services etc – were all worthwhile issues.

But those who heard their argument could be forgiven for asking “what’s the point in voting Plaid? Labour offers much the same and has a better chance of forming a government”.

Contrast Plaid with the SNP, who have taken complete ownership of independence as an issue, and have pushed it on to the political agenda there.

While the Tories and Labour have polarised England and Wales around the contrasting ideologies promoted by May and Corbyn, the SNP have succeeded in doing the same in Scotland around the issue of independence.

Stand out from the crowd, don’t get lost in it – put independence front and center in all campaigns.

Make the economic case for independence

Wales will only ever opt for independence if the economic reasoning is sound, and Plaid need to concentrate all of their efforts on building that case.

It has always amazed me that Plaid never made greater political capital out of the financial crisis of 2007/8 and the decade that followed.

Wales, which has precisely zero financial institutions that required a bail-out, had to suffer swingeing austerity in order to underwrite the debt used to support failing banks in London and Edinburgh.

The incredible irony, of course, is that Scottish institutions in the form of HBOS and RBS were at the center of the crisis, and yet the SNP were able to successfully present the case for independence!

Whatever economics boffins Plaid have in their ranks, they should get together pronto, to start building and sharing a picture of an independent Welsh economy.

What will income tax rates be set? How will corporation tax be dealt with? The public sector? Borrowing? Investment? The energy sector? Manufacturing?

There are plenty of economic messages that could be put out there that support the Plaid cause.

I work in financial services and frequently hear how major companies struggle to attract and retain 18-year-olds to jobs on £18k-£20k salaries in English cities.

Bring those jobs to Wales and you’d probably have quality graduates queuing up with their CVs.

In the public sector, the Financial Ombudsman Service is a perfect example of a body that isn’t served well (and doesn’t serve the public well) by being located in London.

In the City’s Square Mile, those with the skills required by the FOS are comfortably better paid than what the Civil Service offers even with London salary weighting.

Yet the FOS bases their operation in London.

Bring those jobs to any part of Wales, and you give the local economy a huge boost, provide better service to the public and at a lower cost to the taxpayer.

Plaid also need to make the case that the UK Government has deliberately held Wales’ economy back.

The UK’s free market economy is a myth; everything is planned for the benefit of London and the South-East.

Taxation, borrowing, spending, infrastructure, all planned for the benefit of one corner of the UK. Anything or anyone that threatens to compete with that corner is shot down.

Airport tax is a good example. Scotland has full power to set its own level of APD (Airline Passenger Duty) and is in the process of changing the taxation to increase the competitiveness of their airports.

In Northern Ireland, the government was given the power to reduce APD from its airports to allow them to compete with Dublin airport.

Give Wales control over APD? No chance! Cardiff airport is way too close to Heathrow for comfort – we wouldn’t want the Welsh competing with the South East for air traffic now, would we?

There are no doubt plenty of other examples where independence makes perfect economic sense for Wales, so making that reasonable economic case has to be high on Plaid’s to do list.

The tired old cliché is that Wales cannot financially afford to be an independent nation.

Plaid must turn that phrase into a weapon, arguing that Wales can no longer afford to remain part of a union which has saddled itself with a huge, growing national debt in support of an economy which serves only a small part of these islands.

A means to an end

It has always struck me as odd that other parties are so easily able to characterise supporters of Independence as ‘extremists’ without any real challenge.

For me, independence is simply a means to an end. The means of giving Wales its own voice on every international stage not just a handful of team sports, the means of Wales holding all the keys and levers to support and shape its own economy.

The means to design laws, taxation, spend and investment that work for all of Wales, not just one (South-Eastern) corner of the UK.

It is, in fact, the other parties who have allow their extreme British Nationalism to cloud their judgment regarding what would be best for Wales.

No matter how unfairly Wales might be treated, no matter how poorly managed or under-funded, Labour, the Tories and Lib Dems will always put their blind loyalty to the UK ahead of any concern for Wales.

Westminster could impose direct tax increases on the Welsh or reintroduce the Welsh Not, and it still wouldn’t materially change the British parties’ views on independence.

Portraying Independence as a means to a reasonable end, and smashing the myth that any of the other mainstream parties ave the best interest of Wales at heart has to be a priority for Plaid over the next few years.

Focus

Whenever and wherever Plaid has a platform to communicate with the electorate, they must use it to focus on Wales and independence.

Whenever I hear an SNP MP or MSP speak in public, they come across as having absolute conviction in their belief in independence. Their focus is on Scotland and Scotland alone.

The SNP don’t use their time in Holyrood, Westminster, or on TV, Radio etc. trying to fix all of the world’s problems.

It simply distracts from their core message and further blurs the lines between them and Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens.

Forget a progressive alliance. When Labour and Plaid’s political aims do align, as we saw last Thursday, it doesn’t end well for Plaid.

Plaid must develop a discipline and laser-like focus on their ultimate goal. And must use every resource at their disposal to further that cause.

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14 Comments

  1. I believe the Yes Wales AGM is in Aberystwyth this weekend.

  2. John Young

    You’re right. It is a cliche that Wales would struggle financially. It is also a lie. Plaid should be shouting this from the rooftops at every opportunity. I don’t understand their hesitancy. The numbers are there, just use them.

  3. Land + Power = Wealth – who do you want having the power and land? Wales or London?

    (Plaid Cymru must get this point across)

    …….. With good technology, almost anywhere on planet Earth can be comfortably profitable.

  4. Gwynfor Thomas

    Very true they seem to be frightened of the word independence

  5. Under Tory rule – independence support…soft or hard is at 36%…………Plaid Cymru got 10% in the last election

    THEY HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE

  6. Gwylon Phillips

    Plaid has to take Independence to hand. The Party is treading water and gradually sinking. Be brave go for it. Don’t let the doubters lead you astray. YMLAEN dros GYMRU.

  7. The general thrust of the article is to be commended, but offering the option of the status quo or independence won’t work, the groundwork must be done first, the groundwork Plaid has ignored for decades.

    To prepare our people for independence we need to create a mindset that thinks, ‘Wales is badly governed, we are being cheated, lied to, independence is the best option’.

    To achieve that we must stoke up resentment, whether it’s about water extraction, low wages, holiday homes, a tourism industry that gives little to local people, lack of infrastructure, a media that tells lies, social housing allocations, APD (which we were denied to help Bristol, not Heathrow, as Alun Cairns admitted) . . . in short, all those issues Plaid Cymru runs away from.

    Plaid Cymru has failed too many times, it’s going nowhere. As I’ve said elsewhere, it serves England’s interests better than it does ours. It poses no threat to the Union but it plays the role of a national party and inhibits the emergence of a true nationalist party that would stir things up.

    If Plaid can’t reform itself – and I believe that those who care more about sucking up to Labour and Greens are in total control – then it must be dumped and we, the Welsh nation, must proceed by other routes.

  8. I agree 100% with every word of this article and all the comments in response but, we also have to get seriously down to the job of destroying, once and for all the colonial celebralism mentality that’s prevailing in our nation causing our people to believe that we are part of the great u.k. and couldn’t possibly stand on our own two feet. Towards doing this, we have to rid ourselves of the symbolisms enforced on us such as the Tudor rag and reenstate our own such as the true flag of Independence the Four Lions rampant of Owain Glyndŵr. Every time, the English royalty visits Cymru, our school children are lined up in legions to wave that ‘rag’ to welcome them, a ‘rag’that symbolises a disgusting regime that forced the Acts of Union’on us which did more than any war to rubber stamp the end of our independence in the first place and a ‘rag’which was again foisted on us by the English Queen in 1958 to, again, enforce and rubber stamp the concept in Cymric minds that we are part of the United Kingdom and because of deliberate policies not to teach the Cymry our own history and that of other small nations like us, the Cymry have embraced this Tudor rag’ and are now so brainwashed and so lacking in confidence that they find it easier to ‘not rock’the boat’ and continue to accept and use it. Many boats will have to be ‘rocked’if we are to achieve our independence and ridding ourselves of this symbolism of our únion’ with the u.k. could and should be the first important step towards illustrating that we mean business this time so, let’d do it, burn the únionrag’and embrace the true Independence flag, the flag of Owain Glyndwr who fought to the bitter end to re-enstate Cymric Independence.

    • How dare you call our flag a rag!

      You want everyone to get behind the banner of one of our greatest heros, which no one can deny, but you disrespect everyone with calling our flag a rag! You aren’t going for unity, you are just promoting your own back yard and less than a fraction of our 12,000 year old history.

      The banner you shove in our face (which I have and proudly fly) is anglo-norman armoury, the colours, language, animal, postion, quartered is ALL ANGLO-NORMAN, HELLO!

      Owain was a great man and leader, but the history you preach (on and on) about is anglo-norman, the only part of our history at that time which is Cymreig are the ordinary Cymry that were treated, as they were looked upon, as servants and fodder. Owain, may have cared, but no more than his own interests dictated. Those were different times and I would politely suggest you change your rose tinted glasses and get with the 21st century, our country needs Independence not more division.

      I would politely ask you, unconditionally, to make an apology without any reservations on this site.

      • Yeah, agree with you there. The Welsh Flag (i.e. the Welsh Flag), is a wonderful flag in that it is one of the few flags which came about (late nineteenth century/early twentieth) as being the undisputed national flag of a country through the common usage of the populace. It also looks bloody marvellous. That 1958 date is an irrelevance – the British state was trying to STOP us from using the flag in any official capacity, making sure that other banners were flown from official buildings etc. until it became obvious they had lost, and they capitulated – ungracefully. Claiming that the Queen was now “giving” us a flag. That fooled nothing, even the unionists deep down, so I have no idea why that nonsense is being championed here. Yes, it is derived from the Red Dragon of Cadwaladr through the banner of Henry Tudor originally, but it became used as a flag not because of that, but because in the 19th/20th century the people used it in opposition to what the state wanted. It’s the flag we wanted, it’s the flag we want. And I can see why.

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  10. Completely agree with the contents and comments so far. There are questions for Plaid Cymru that need be answered urgently. Who has the vision and leadership to lead us to independence? Is the current leader up to the job? (personally the answer would be no), Do Plaid Cymru have the economic brains to develop this long awaited economic plan? (Eurfyl ap Gwilym is one but who else?) What will Plaid’s position be when we are faced with the Brexit bill? When you look at the 1974 political broadcast (You tube) starring Dafydd Wigley and Gwynfor Evans you can see how much leadership, spirit and passion for independence we have lost.

  11. sian caiach

    I agree. My experience here in Carmarthenshire is that welsh culture beats welsh economics and welsh independence in Plaid every time. At least our local county council leader Emyn Dole is honest enough to admit that he does not believe that he will live to see Independence and will concentrate on expanding places in Welsh Language Schools, presumably rather than the more demanding issues of Nationalism. Doing the little things that the state allows and politely offering the begging bowl to the UK for the crumbs is eroding confidence and hope even in Plaid Leaders.

    Welsh devolution was set up to fail economically and structurally, founded on already chronic under funding in many areas which, despite empty assertions to the contrary, still effects the quality of education, health care etc. Devolving poverty formally was a triumph for Blair who rewarded the many decades of Labour loyalty in Wales with legislating to keep his welsh voters poor.

    We need a change of mindset. Rather than shadow the British Political Parties and gage our success as nationalists by the success of playing by the rules, we need movements to reflect our ambitions, The UK State will always be more motivated to thwart the natives’ ambitions for a better,decent place to live and work. The majority who live in Wales want a better, fairer country and there must be some way of delivering?

  12. I agree with the content too, with one or to reservations and concerns. However, we need Independence and we need it asap so, I will put those rescons aside for now.

    There is a growing movement for Independence and Plaid could be left high and dry, hopefully not.

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