Wales faces a choice between independence and an increasingly right-wing, centralised British state

Leanne Wood. Picture by Plaid Cymru

Leanne Wood, Leader of Plaid Cymru

The events of the past few weeks in Westminster have seen the Brexit negotiations sink to a new level of shambles.

We have a Tory government hellbent on a hard Brexit, propped up by Labour MPs who are either unable or unwilling to fight it.

Westminster is messing up and the only way to counter their chaos is to put in motion a new and better way of doing politics here in Wales.

We have a wealth of untapped talent in our country and we know that we can improve people’s lives and live in a much more equal and sustainable society.

Wales now stands at a crossroads between a future where we play a peripheral role in an increasingly right-wing, centralised and reactionary British state, or one where we can develop our own democracy and economy from the bottom up.

There needs to be a full and open debate – with everyone involved and included – about the kind of country we want to live in.

To this end I will be establishing a caucus within Plaid Cymru that will be tasked with working on establishing the building blocks of Real Independence.

We have some great talent within Plaid Cymru – people with all kinds of skills and experience, who are well placed to help develop a purposeful and life-enhancing independence that will serve as an alternative to the power-grabbing constitutional uncertainty offered up by London.

Maximising power

The concept of ‘Real Independence’ aims to achieve Welsh sovereignty in two phases. In order to prepare for full, constitutional independence we must first re-develop our economy from the ground up by tackling inequality, investing in health and good education and utilising our natural resources for the benefit of our people, not others elsewhere.

Tackling inequality involves creating wealth so that it can be fairly distributed.

Tackling inequality also involves constructing an economy that is sustainable in Welsh terms. It involves looking at ways of reducing our overall economic burden in ways that do not punish those with the least.

To do this we must maximise the powers that Wales has at its disposal. That starts with bringing home the powers that have recently been snatched back by London under the guise of Brexit.

But independence must be about more than just the constitution, it must be a way to create a genuinely better country, where people’s lives are improved. Opportunity for our nation through independence must translate to opportunity for our people.

Through constitutional, economic and social independence – through Real Independence – Wales can become that land of opportunity.

We face challenges, but now more than ever there is a chance for people to engage with politics on a new, mass scale. Constitutional uncertainty means we must question everything about the structure of our economy, infrastructure and democracy.

We cannot be afraid to develop ambitions that we don’t yet have the powers or the finances to realise, but we must be single-minded in our efforts to obtain those powers and finances.

Tapping into our inspiring and energised party membership, we can carve out a path to Real Independence which will be unstoppable.

A political hero of mine, Raymond Williams described Real Independence as “a time of new and active creation: people sure enough of themselves to discard their baggage; knowing the past is past, as shaping history, but with a new confident sense of the present and the future, where the decisive meanings and values will be made.”

Westminster incompetence shows us that now is the time for new politics – to discard that baggage.

The answers cannot be found for us in London. It’s time for Plaid Cymru to take a new approach and renew our vigour in using every opportunity possible to expand our powers and create the new Wales we all want to see.

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