Gwynedd’s Next Step – Why I’m standing for Plaid Cymru’s Dwyfor Meirionnydd nomination
All my life I have campaigned for Welsh-speaking communities. I want them and the Welsh language to carry weight within government. That is why I am standing for the Plaid Cymru nomination for Assembly candidate for Dwyfor Meirionnydd.
My roots are deep in the constituency. My mother’s family quarried granite in Trefor, at the door of Llŷn. My father’s paternal family were quarrymen in Blaenau Ffestiniog.
They went ‘south’ and mined in the Rhondda and Cynon Valleys. My parents emigrated from Wales to London in the 1960s for work. I was lucky to be able to return to Gwynedd.
The social history of rural Gwynedd has been the history of emigration. It is the history of my family. We force the young out, over the border or down to Cardiff, when they turn eighteen or twenty-one.
Devolution was supposed to change this. But we are as firmly on the periphery of the Welsh state as we remain on the fringe of its precursor in London.
Dwyfor Meirionnydd has the lowest wages of any constituency in the entire United Kingdom. The difference in average age between the ward I represent in Porthmadog and Cardiff is now greater than 20 years.
There is nothing reactionary about wanting justice within nations, as well as for nations within multi-national states. Read Gramsci on the Italian South. He was the brilliant Marxist thinker exiled from Sardinia to Turin for want of a job. To his dying day, he loved the Sardinian language.
If we believe in social justice, we must believe in the geographical redistribution of wealth too. We need independence so that Wales is no longer an ‘internal colony’.
And we need to redistribute wealth within Wales because British ‘internal colonialism’ most deeply affects those parts of Wales furthest from the centre.
This is why, if I ever reach the Assembly, I will read, scrutinise and go through line-by-line and word-by-word every single piece of Labour policy that impacts on Gwynedd and Welsh-speaking communities.
And using every ounce of ability I have to analyse and dissect, I will challenge everything that does us harm.
But I rather think we might have a Plaid Cymru Government. If so I will bring my expertise as an academic in Public Policy to the Plaid team. Adam Price has both the vision and the rigour to make his Government the best Government in western Europe.
How then to end the marginalisation of Gwynedd?
First, we should put Adam’s vision of Arfor centre stage. It will become an economic powerhouse based on Udaras na Gaeltachta in Ireland to bring investment and hope and young people back to Welsh-speaking rural Wales.
Then we will go through the policy agenda, area by area, tackling the systemic disadvantages born of being far from the centre.
Powers to levy a tourism tax will be devolved to Gwynedd Council. This will enable us to begin the work of bringing austerity in local government to an end.
A Welsh green deal depends on the wind and water of rural Wales. We will share this wealth with everyone in Wales, but as Shetland does with oil, we will enable local communities to take a cut.
We will legislate in the field of holiday homes, setting a cap above which the percentage of holiday homes in any named community will not be allowed to rise.
We will move Welsh-language public sector jobs from Cardiff to Gwynedd so that the language of Gwynedd’s communities becomes an economic asset and not a reason for our young people to move away.
This is only a small part of the manifesto which I will publish during this selection process. I intend to use the Dwyfor Meirionnydd primary to produce ideas which can revolutionize the economy of Gwynedd.
People in Porthmadog know that not only do I talk the talk, I also stand up for services in the town. Cllr Selwyn Griffiths and myself chaired Porthmadog Town Council during our successful campaign to save the Porthmadog Tax Office.
For month after month, I proposed motion after motion turning the Town Council into the most effective and radical lobbying body in Wales. Hand-in-hand with Liz Saville Roberts, our brilliant MP, we forced Westminster into a u-turn.
We saved the tax office. We defeated the Tory Government.
Brexit will usher in unprecedented times and Gwynedd is a unique society. There will be no off-the-shelf solutions. The historical Plaid Cymru Government which we elect in 2021 must be formed of Assembly Members who are able to imagine, debate, argue for and implement policy.
Gwynedd’s next step must be transformational.
Wales can. And Gwynedd can too.
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