Wales can escape this Westminster chaos – let’s build a progressive independent nation instead
Adam Price, the leader of Plaid Cymru
As Plaid Cymru delegates met this weekend at our annual conference in Llandudno to the backdrop of Westminster chaos and Tory infighting, there was one question on our minds.
What now for Wales?
What now as our communities suffer another ‘cost of Westminster’ crisis?
What now as the clock ticks on Labour’s inaction in the face of the Tories’ destructive agenda?
Mortgages – up. Energy bills – up. Food prices – up.
All in the name of trickle down. It’s time to say ‘Enough is Enough’.
The cuts are coming – ripping through not trickling down into our public services.
Plaid Cymru’s message is clear: It doesn’t have to be this way. There is another way – the Welsh way – truly greener, fairer, more equal, and more flourishing.
Slash energy bills back to under thirteen hundred pounds by bringing in a windfall tax for the profit-guzzling energy companies and extending it beyond April next year.
Raising the National Living Wage, just as many other countries have done.
An immediate increase in Universal Credit of £25 a week and a commitment to raise benefits in line with inflation.
Fuel duty relief in rural areas where public transport is limited and a 1,000 litres of heating oil for those in many parts of Wales that are off-grid.
There are also measures we in Wales can take now, today, to protect people against the brunt of Westminster’s crisis.
First, by freezing rents. With Wales’s average rental values up by 15% in just 12 months, the Welsh Government must use the powers at their disposal right now to make sure that these bills don’t rise a penny more in the private rental sector.
And they must act on evictions too. One in 10 people in Wales are worried about the prospect of losing their home in the next three months – a sobering statistic as we enter the coldest months of the year.
Secondly, despite the soaring costs of fuel, we must keep Wales moving. So I’m calling on the Welsh Government today to freeze rail fares this year, halve the cost of more off-peak tickets and cap bus fares at £2 to ensure that public transport remains affordable in these challenging times.
Next, to alleviate child hunger we must look after secondary as well as primary pupils. Expanding the universal school meals policy to all secondary pupils, starting with those whose families receive Universal Credit will help raise attainment and lower the weekly family food bill.
Let’s also support our young people by raising the Education Maintenance Allowance which has remained at £30 for the last eighteen years. Let’s give the next generation a break after the crippling uncertainty they have endured throughout the pandemic.
Finally, and perhaps most pertinently – the Welsh Government’s public sector pay awards are derisory. Not my words but that of the Labour-affiliated union Unison.
Nurses using foodbanks. Nurses crying after their shifts because of the pressure they are under and the sense that they’re under-valued.
Those who care for the vulnerable and those who educate our children deserve so much better than this.
That’s why we’re calling on the Welsh Government to introduce fair pay right away to those on the front line in the public sector through a rise at least in line with inflation.
These are Plaid Cymru’s proposals – our People’s Plan –a fully costed, fully achievable, fully progressive plan rooted in doing as much as we can for those who have the least. It will do what’s right by our communities – fighting their battles, believing in their causes, and championing change through our deep-rooted values of ‘chwarae teg’.
But we must also be honest with our people too.
Wales urgently needs independence because we are trapped within a UK economy that is overwhelmingly shaped in the interests of the South East of England and the City of London. Since Brexit Wales has lost out on European convergence funding, while the UK Government’s so-called ‘levelling up’ agenda has been shown to be no more than hollow rhetoric.
The UK is stuck in an unresolved yearning for its imperial past with ancient, outdated structures. It is backward-looking and inward-looking, and slowly its economy and its institutions are collapsing.
By contrast an independent Wales would be forward thinking and outward looking, shaped by a progressive vision, dynamic and invigorating. And it would do a better job of providing to our citizens the basics of a decent life.
Our job as a party is to persuade of people of that vision, in collaboration with as many others that we can persuade to share it with us. That is why I was proud to announce a collaboration with the Wales Green Party to create a new initiative to grow the case for independence.
The Future Cymru Forum will be a detailed shared programme of research to set out the economic, social and environmental policies that the Government of a newly independent Wales will need to put in hand to create a prosperous and sustainable country – a million miles away from the broken Britain of today.
For what greater prospect is there than building a country of our own – that will be for ever in every sense for everyone our Cymru For All.
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