Wales faces ‘existential threat to its political autonomy’ say Lib Dems as they launch Senedd manifesto
Wales faces “the greatest existential threat to its political autonomy since devolution” according to the Liberal Democrats as they launch their manifesto for the Senedd election.
The party says that they would push back against attempts by the UK Government to roll back devolution on the allocation of regional funding and also agriculture and food standards post-Brexit.
They aim to establish a federal United Kingdom, with an immediate transfer of fiscal and other powers to the Welsh Government, they said.
They would also establish citizen’s assemblies and also a proportional voting system for Senedd elections and all local authority elections, according to the manifesto.
“Wales faces the greatest existential threat to its political autonomy since devolution,” the manifesto says. “The Conservative Government in Westminster has undermined Welsh competencies in devolved areas like agriculture and food standards – and it has broken its promise to replace every penny of EU funding through the Shared Prosperity Fund.
“We condemn these attempts to undermine the devolution settlement – a settlement that has twice been endorsed by voters in referendums. We will continue to oppose the Conservatives’ attempts to roll back devolution and self-government in Wales.”
The manifesto adds that the Liberal Democrats have long argued for a federal United Kingdom which would “mean far more than devolution”.
“It means that the constituent parts of the UK have power over their own affairs as a matter of enforceable legal right, as part of a wider written constitution for the UK,” the manifesto said.
“Under such a system there could be no question of Westminster rolling back or circumventing the devolution settlement – as the Conservative Government in Westminster is currently trying to do.
“Decisions on the future of Wales within a federal UK would be taken in Wales, with the consent of Welsh people, and with an absolute constitutional veto over any change in the relationship between the reformed United Kingdom and its constituent parts.
“We are not defending the status quo. We are the only party that believes in reform both in Wales and the United Kingdom as a whole. The Liberal Democrat vision is therefore one that creates an autonomous Wales, in which decisions are taken by democratic Welsh institutions; it is also one that avoids creating new barriers.
“Since leaving the EU, Wales has seen the problems that arise when new borders are created. We believe in taking down borders, not erecting them; a federal UK is how we achieve aspirations for home rule while ensuring that people are able to continue their lives without facing border controls.
“After all, tens of thousands of people cross the border between England and Wales every day, in both directions, to work and carry on businesses, or just to visit family and friends on the other side of the border.”
Other policy highlights from the manifesto include:
- Creating a new Welsh Towns Fund, committing £500m over the next five years to invest in the future of our town centres and high streets, and freezing business rates before scrapping them and replacing them with a fairer system of taxation
- Investing £1bn per year to face up to the climate emergency, “the boldest plan of any political party on climate change”. This investment will help us make homes warmer and more energy-efficient, cut household energy bills and tackle fuel poverty, invest in cleaner, greener transport, take action against biodiversity loss and flooding.
- Taking a cross-government approach to mental health and wellbeing from schools to community services and increase spending on mental health services.
Leader Jane Dodds will pledge that every single policy announced by the Welsh Liberal Democrats will put recovery first and to do anything else would be “foolish.”
At the launch today she is expected to say: “Wales needs a recovery – an economic recovery, an environmental recovery and a caring recovery.
“Wales is at a turning point and now is the time to decide how we move on from Covid and how we want Wales to look in five years’ time. That’s why we want to put recovery first. To prioritise anything else would be foolish. We will:
- Secure our economic recovery;
- Prioritise our environmental recovery; and
- Deliver a caring recovery.
“The next Welsh Government will face a huge challenge in the problems that already existed in our country and which have been made worse as a result of Covid.
“With ambitious yet fully achievable policies including building 30,000 new homes, investing in our high streets, and investing in our mental health provision, the Welsh Liberal Democrats are presenting radical yet realistic options for Wales’ future.
“Wales cannot afford for any party or any government to put anything other than our recovery first. That is precisely what a vote for the Welsh Liberal Democrats will be.”
Other policies from the manifesto include:
- 30,000 new build social homes for rent
- Investment to retrofit existing homes to make them more energy efficient
- Free public transport for the under 25s
- An investment in mental health increasing year on year until it reaches 13% of all NHS spend by 2028
- Investing in Personal Learning Accounts to allow people to up-skill and re-skill
- A Clean Air Act, along with a commitment to spend 10% of the transport budget on active travel
- Ensure that in the next five years at least 90% of homes and businesses in Wales have access to full-fibre broadband
- Commit to ending homelessness, by adopting a wide range of policies including increasing the Housing Support Grant
- Pass a Welsh Language Education for All Act, normalising the Welsh language in education
- Ensure any future funding scheme for farming provides not a penny less for farming and agriculture.