Wales was neglected by the Budget – so we need the power to invest in our own country

Leanne Wood. (Photo by Matthew Horwood)

Leanne Wood, Leader of Plaid Cymru

Buried beneath the downwards forecasts in the Chancellor’s Autumn budget was the usual promise to rebalance the British economy so that it works for all parts of the UK.

This is a commitment we often look out for in Wales, refusing to surrender our ‘optimism of the will’ that the UK Government will announce big infrastructure projects to boost the Welsh economy.

Twenty years since Wales voted ‘yes’ to devolution, the UK Government still controls the crucial spending and investment levers over the Welsh economy, especially when it comes to the kind of large infrastructure projects that we need.

While a welcome process of tax devolution is occurring here, progress is slow and gradual.

Wales is forced to be dependent on the Chancellor’s promises.

That’s why Welsh eyes turn to the Chancellor to see whether anything for Wales will come out of his Red Book.

It’s a situation that Plaid Cymru is neither happy nor comfortable with.

Plaid Cymru Members of Parliament maximise every opportunity to raise Wales’ interests directly with the UK Government.

But they would be far happier seeing those decision-making powers vested in Wales, so that we didn’t have to be at the whim of predictable indecision at the other end of the M4.

Contrast

Going into last week’s budget, one hundred Welsh businesses, most of the biggest names in the private sector in our country, demanded Number 10 get behind the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon.

Yet they were rebuffed by the Chancellor, with no support whatsoever announced.

This follows the cancellation of rail electrification to Swansea.

Contrast this treatment to Scotland, where decisions on large-scale renewable energy and rail projects are devolved to the Scottish Government.

In that country, substantial green infrastructure projects are being developed and rail electrification is going ahead.

On Welsh rail infrastructure, another major responsibility of the UK Government here, Phillip Hammond missed an opportunity to announce electrification of the North Wales Main Line.

Instead, he mentioned journey time improvements which have in any case already been talked about by Network Rail and don’t constitute a new announcement.

Looking ahead, Wales is expected to pin its hopes on further ‘growth deals’, namely for the north and also for mid Wales.

But these have either already been announced, or lack any detail.

Growth deals from the UK Government will not be opposed by Plaid Cymru, but we need to understand their potential role as window-dressing for years of underinvestment and neglect.

The regions of Wales are full of untapped potential.

Strong and close-knit communities are being held back and disadvantaged by inadequate broadband, antiquated rail infrastructure, and poor road links.

That’s not my idea of a pro-business and pro-growth environment and isn’t something people in Wales should be rewarding at the ballot box.

Squandered

One of the greatest impacts of the Budget on Wales will be felt in the predicted slowdown in economic growth.

It is now undeniable that the UK economy is flagging compared to the rest of the advanced world.

Growth, productivity, and business investment have all been revised downwards by the OBR.

Add this to the fact that inflation is hitting Welsh pockets harder than almost all other parts of the UK, and we face a fresh squeeze on living standards.

The failure of Westminster government to create any kind of stability or certainty in the Brexit negotiations is a major factor in this, but we need to face the reality that we have still not recovered from the 2008 financial crisis.

It’s not only a case of lessons being unlearnt, but that the opportunity to build a sustainable post-crash economy has been squandered by successive Conservative and Labour governments.

We must move beyond the mantra of ‘poor old Wales’ if we are to see our country flourish.

People here cannot doesn’t reach their full potential as long as Wales lacks confidence, vibrancy, innovation, and self-reliance.

We have a vested interest in Wales being an economic and social success story.

To get there, we either need forward-thinking announcements from the UK Government, or we need to be given the tools to do the job ourselves.

This budget gave us neither of those outcomes.

In that light, the Welsh Government now needs to redouble its efforts to secure better results for our country.

Until that happens, the age-old question of ‘who speaks for Wales?’ will continue to be answered with silence when it comes to Whitehall.

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10 Comments

  1. Jonthan Edwards Sir Benfro

    I don’t know how much of these vapid platitudes i can take.
    To take some of the specimens, in no particular order.
    “mantra of ‘poor old Wales’”
    “Mantra” as in “a statement or slogan repeated frequently.”? I have never heard this slogan, let alone repeatedly. With respect, if you are writing an article tailored to Nation.Cymru (which this may not be, may only be a re-hash) you start from the point that a lot of N.C followers are extremely angry about the condition of Wales. They are not wringing their hands, they want action.
    But apparently we need not worry because Wales has “a situation that Plaid Cymru is neither happy nor comfortable with.”. Which sounds like someone has said something non-pc like asking a woman to “make the tea, love”. We surely need something stronger than being “neither happy nor comfortable with” our economic situation. We need some fire, surely?
    So we get “Wales lacks confidence, vibrancy, innovation, and self-reliance.” Merely using the word “vibrancy” does not supply, er, “vibrancy” let alone any direction or action. This is a just a platitude with a buzz-word in it.
    Not good enough, coming from the leader of the only party in Wales dedicated solely to Wales. No wonder we have YesCymru now and Royston’s new party.
    I personally have ideas how Wales can demand and get what is really needed. The ideas to concentrate on are keeping our own tax receipts (like my Namesake MP), and getting our own legal jurisdiction. We do the demanding by one or more of the following:
    1. Insurrection like Ireland, Kenya, 13 American colones etc etc? No, not recommending this for Wales in the 21st century.
    2. Civil disobedience as in 1970s with roadsigns? Block the Severn Bridge for 10 minutes? Could be. Gandhi would recommend this.
    3. Stop asking Labour in Wales to do our hard work for us. They are not going to. Unless maybe they split.
    4. Extend the appeal of Plaid Cymru eg by reaching out to those who are giving up on it, and to those in the Conservatives who agree on law, and revenue for Wales. They do exist.
    4. Stop using vapid platitudes and find some vibrancy from somewhere.
    That’s my plan. Does Plaid Cymru actually have a plan, please?

  2. You could travel by rail from South to North Wales in 1947, but things have deteriorated since. It would be interesting if we could see the capital investment in infrastructure in Wales, Scotland and the regions of England in the past 20 years. The figures must exist somewhere.

  3. If Uk has become the sick man of Europe again, Wales is the sickly child suckling at the UK’s teet.

    Dependence is only good when its on equal trading terms, not dominated by blind policy makers who have never even visited

  4. Hi Leanne, would you care to elaborate on exactly which extra powers you would like devolved to help achieve this? What are the “tools” that you mention?

  5. As a current member of Plaid I sincerely hope Leanne, or someone else in PC, reads the responses to this article.

    I don’t know how many there are doing the same but I am one PC member who will be cancelling my membership and who will become a member of the new party currently being set up. I am sick of the ‘careful’ approach Plaid takes. As if trying to not upset people. Upset them for God’s sake. Who cares if they get upset.

    Jonathan is correct. Again quoting the article, ‘It’s a situation that Plaid Cymru is neither happy nor comfortable with’. What a lame comment to make. I would have thought that our country being shafted at every opportunity by this dreadful government required words rather stronger than that.

    In my contacts with Plaid I always had a response from Dai Lloyd to be fair but, when I emailed Central Office with comments similar to the above ie asking why is Plaid always so careful, from memory I got no response (I’ll recheck my old mails shortly to confirm).

    Again, as Jonathan said, does Plaid have a plan ? Or just more words.

  6. Benjiman L. Angwin

    Jonathan, and John,

    Read the first 3 chapters of ‘A Short History of the Labour Party’ by Alistair J Reid, and the chapter on Labour changing in the 1950s and early 1960s and you’ll see two things:
    1. Perennial political parties require decades for first fruitions.
    2. Parties are amorphous as a result of multifarious composition.

    Also, the sections on the formation and development of the 1922 Committee in ‘Conservatives: A History’, by Robin Harris. You’ll understand that parties develop and overcome opposition parties because internal differences of opinion when used constructively allows structural adaptation.

    Therefor, if you are unhappy with elements of Plaid or its directions, but are Welsh Nationalist, active contribution within Plaid Cymru is the best option you could possibly choose.

    • CambroUiDunlainge

      Unfortunately Plaid’s issues go far beyond policy. Its got baggage in name and purpose which no longer fit the objectives of Welsh nationalism. It will forever be the Welsh language party. Like Chartism and most other movements throughout history its goal has largely come to an end. It was founded to prevent the Welsh language from becoming extinct, a cause now taken up by “Welsh” Labour. The party as failed to find anything to grip onto and does not have the audience to push Independence and is still limited by that Welsh language party label.

      Plaid was simply an outlet for nationalism as many other elements throughout history have been. That nationalism will now find another outlet.

  7. The Bellwether

    I think the statement ..’Wales was neglected-…-we NEED the power’ (shortened title) more or less says it all. The problem is with the word NEED. Perhaps Plaid Cymru could consider deleting the word ‘need’ from all their cut and paste stuff (like above) and substitute the word with ‘TAKE’. Nobody likes or votes for a ‘needy’ party spouting ‘vapid platitudes’ (hat tip @J.E Sir Penfro).

  8. Bennjiman is so wrong. I joined the Blaid in the late 60s and worked untiringly thru to the early 80s.In those day’s the party took lab. head on and exposed their short comings at every opportunity,and believe me there were many- nepotism and a belief they had the right to rule Wales un fettered( ring any bells today) Nothing has changed. If plaid do not put INDY first and foremost and open the door to non- socialists,then they will heamorage votes to The party new party I for one,will not hesitate to give them my support

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