Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader
Today we should have been marching ‘all under one banner’ in Swansea. Instead, due to the Coronavirus, we’re all under separate roofs. But what may be stopping the action, has certainly not dampened the fire.
Far from it.
While Covid may stop us marching, it’s fanning the flames of Welsh independence better than any crumpled Unionist propaganda might have served to in the past.
The missives stating that Wales is “too poor”, “too incompetent” or “too small” have all helped feed the fire. But helping the blaze rage has been Westminster’s shambolic handling of the Coronavirus crisis itself – from the so-called “four nations approach” which led to Wales stopping community testing early in the pandemic, to the “Not in Stock” response when we needed crucial PPE, and the personalised prescription Dominic Cummings obtained for his eyesight at Barnard Castle.
Yes. Wales blindly trusted Westminster when it dropped the World Health Organisation’s advice to test and trace early on in the pandemic. Sticking with the British Government did not serve Wales well. Whether it was gazumped tests or delays getting PPE stock, Wales always seemed to be at the back of the queue when it came to Westminster’s priorities.
And the result was that our people suffered. People died.
The point at which Wales decided to lead its own response to the pandemic could well have saved the lives of many – that much is true. And whilst a much called-for future inquiry will judge the true consequences of this Labour Welsh government’s handling of this crisis – including the failure to ensure universal testing of all care home residents and acquire adequate PPE for health and care staff – following Westminster in its so called four-nation approach surely has been one of their main weaknesses.
United by Unionism, the Labour government in Wales and the Tories in Westminster blindly led us down the wrong path.
Is it any wonder then that support for independence is rising? People have seen the benefits of Wales taking control of our own destiny. It’s not an abstract idea any more – just look at what we can do when we take matters into our own hands.
Of course, we’re still being told that, if we’re part of the UK, we’re held up by something strong and stable.
But what we’re actually seeing is the ever-growing contradictions of an out-of-touch British State, and what we’re hearing subliminally is a desperate “please don’t go!”
But Westminster is not working for the people of Wales and the people of Wales are becoming alive to the possibility we’d be better off on our own.
“Better off” in terms of health – we’ve had coronavirus to help highlight this. But “better off” in financial terms is a very different question, precisely because we do not control our own purse strings in Wales. We are at the mercy of a government seated in another country.
The challenges posed by Covid are far-reaching, and we’re certainly not at the end of them yet. With mass redundancies and further job losses expected once the furlough scheme ends, no support for our small businesses and the looming matter of a no deal Brexit – what do we have left? Being at the mercy of Westminster when it comes to our economy has left us exposed to the elements, and what protection has Labour in Wales offered us?
Make no mistake: Labour, for all its assurances that the First Minister will not stand in the way if the Welsh people want independence, has blocked giving the Welsh people the chance to have their say at every turn. Who was it but Labour in Wales who – as recently as July – voted against giving the people of Wales the right to decide whether Wales should become an independent country?
And all the while we are unable to take control of our own economy, we are at the mercy of a Union that does not have our best interests at heart.
The shocking truth is that Labour in Wales, despite assurances to the contrary, prefers to be in a Union with – and at the mercy of – the Tory government in Westminster than give Wales that control so we can shape our own path out of this crisis.
This is why we need independence – not just to protect us in the inevitable Coronavirus aftermath but also to help build our recovery.
The irony is that it’s taken a global pandemic to show us that Westminster isn’t working for Wales. The tragedy is that it has cost lives and livelihoods.