A Plaid Cymru Government – able to command the support of a majority of Senedd members – will offer a referendum on independence for Wales in its first term, party Leader Adam Price will say today.
The Plaid Cymru Leader will make the announcement in a keynote address on Welsh independence at 9.30 am, live from the St David’s Hotel in Cardiff
Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price will say that devolution is “under attack” from the Conservative Westminster Government and that with Scotland likely to become independent by 2025 and Brexit making a united Ireland possible, the “momentum of change” has accelerated the need to hold a referendum on Welsh independence by 2026.
Mr Price, the only prospective pro-independence candidate to become First Minister will be responding to the report published by the arms-length Independence Commission in September. It had suggested holding two independence referenda within a decade – the first one exploratory to gauge people’s views in order to persuade the UK Government to hold a binary referendum.
Noting that support for independence was at its “highest” in history, the Plaid Cymru Leader will also confirm that a Plaid Cymru Government would offer one binary choice referendum on Welsh independence and will encourage all those who want independence for Wales to vote for Plaid Cymru in May.
Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS is expected to say,
“Devolution itself – that most basic democratic principle that decisions affecting Wales should be made in Wales – is under attack from Boris Johnson’s Conservatives. Meanwhile, the demand for another independence referendum in Scotland is becoming unstoppable and by 2025 Scotland could well be an independent country. And Brexit has also given further impetus to the calls for a united Ireland.
“that Wales is in real danger of being be left behind as part of a rump United Kingdom, in a new England-and-Wales formation – which would be the ultimate worst of all worlds.
“It is for these reasons that I therefore pledge today that subject to party approval a Plaid Cymru Government, able to command a majority in the Senedd, will offer a referendum on independence for Wales in its first term.
“It’s implicit in the present Covid crisis – the sense that something new and better must come out of this. Next May, electors won’t just want to carry on with the Old Wales. They will be looking for a new direction, one that offers hope, vision, and ambition. It is our job in Plaid Cymru to provide that hope, that vision, that ambition for real, radical change.
“Independence is the most radical idea in Welsh politics today. The last two polls on independence put it on its highest support in history. An argument once derided as a pipe dream has moved from the margins to the mainstream.
“But whilst banners and marches fuel our fire, the Welsh spring will only truly bloom at the ballot box in May. If you want independence, you have to vote for it by voting Plaid Cymru.
`The full speech by Adam Price MS
2020 is a year we will remember every year of our lives.
Compelled to shield, to isolate, to dig deep and deeper again and again, we have worried about the now but thought about the new.
Because it is in a dark time the eye begins to see, it’s in the shadow of Wales today we have seen the outlines of our tomorrow,
We have felt like all the world that if Wales can winter this one out then we can summer anywhere.
Even on the coldest morning we can feel the pulse of electricity in the air, a new Welsh wave of confidence that is palpable and pre-figurative, a premonition of that moment of elation that any independent nation feels on that very first morning, when we rise to greet ourselves, a new dawn and a new door in a house we have built for ourselves. We’ve been a nation for fifteen hundred years and more. It’s a modest demand to ask that we finally be given our own key to our own future.
This key is more than a symbol.
It’s the lever that lifts our people out of poverty.
It’s the tool of transformation that changes Wales for good, fast and fundamentally.
It’s the catalyst for our conversion from a nation forever playing catch-up, at the wrong end of the league table, at the long end of a queue, to a nation playing leap frog. To a Wales in which we are the world’s test-bed, pioneers in progress from the climate to UBI.
Because that is the most powerful thing of all about our independence.
That we will be building a new state from scratch. And that means all the old ways of thinking, the old structures and systems of power, the mould and the dust, are stripped away.
Which is why independence is the most radical idea in Welsh politics today. Starting anew means there is nothing we cannot change.
To turn the seed of that practical dream into our radical new reality we need to combine hope with determination.
We must work, as the poet says, as if we live in the early years of a better nation.
Even while we live in the dying years of a bitter state.
The futures of Welsh agriculture, manufacturing and our ports are currently being bartered in Brussels – with no Welsh seat and no Welsh voice at that table.
Sovereign control over territorial waters is one of the sticking points – and how ironic that is to hear that when we in Wales still lack control of the water within our borders let alone the ones beyond them.
Devolution died this week – not my words, but those of a Labour Member of the Senedd in the debate on the Legislative Consent Motion for the Internal Market Bill. Devolution is not a sustainable end-state and never can be in a country where Westminster will always reign supreme.
Now it was a year ago today that we woke up to a general election result set to change the course of these islands’ history forever.
An election in which a Tory tsunami swept over Labour’s red wall in the north, thrashing decades-old majorities of thousands and giving succour to the spin that the Prime Minister now had a mandate for his version of Greater England.
A few weeks previously – and acutely aware of how in the coming months history could accelerate – I announced the establishment of a Commission – independent in its role and independence-focused in its remit – to examine our constitutional future.
The Commission got to work in the immediate aftermath of the general election under the skilled chairing of Elfyn Llwyd and published its report in September.
There is no doubt that this report is the most detailed and important contribution to Plaid Cymru’s and indeed Wales’s thinking on our constitutional future in my lifetime.
Looking to the coming decade, it lifts the mists of uncertainty and offers a visionary landscape for the New Wales that is poised to emerge.
It is a report published at a critical tipping point between the slide into history of an Old Wales, and the coming into being of a New Nation, one determined to strike out on a radically different path.
Next May’s election will mark a pivot of change that will determine the history of Wales and, indeed, the whole of Britain in the 21st Century. We are living through the emergence of a New Wales, but also a New Britain too. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ushered into existence 99 years ago is entering its final chapter. The question to us is in Wales is this: are we content to be passive bystanders at a funeral or celebrants of a new birth and a new beginning?
The Independence Commission has sketched out a pathway to the latter.
It casts a cold eye on our economic performance relative to Britain as a whole, but equally, it points out that prior to full independence the Irish economy was in a far worse position.
Yet Ireland is now one of the richest parts of these Isles, a confident, self-assured, and independent nation with a seat at the United Nations.
Why wouldn’t we want to follow that example?
After all, there is nothing intrinsically inferior about the Welsh that we cannot emulate the success of the Irish or, for that matter, that of many other small independent nations, from the Baltic States to Slovakia and Slovenia.
Not one of them would consider for an instant parting with the independence they have won for themselves in recent decades.
Turning to its key recommendations, the Commission has succeeded in capturing the spirit of Plaid Cymru’s goal. We aim not to break up Britain but to remake it as an island of equals, of free and independent nations.
As the son of a Worcestershire lass, and with Geordie nephews and nieces I care about what happens to England, deeply – but the British State fails working people there too. Our liberation is the first step in bringing down the whole rotten edifice that is imprisoning them as much as it has imprisoned us in poverty, sickness and despair.
The Commission set out a thought-provoking vision for our relationships with our closest neighbours in these islands. As it says, whatever constitutional status we achieve, we will always share our island with our English and Scottish friends.
It makes perfect sense, therefore, for us to seek the closest possible relationships, but on the basis of equality not the subordination that has been the case for much of our history.
For relationships further afield it presents a cogent argument that in the near-term Wales should aspire to the status of Norway as a member of the European Free Trade Association, thus securing for Wales access to the single market with the option of re-joining the European Union a medium-term option to be determined by the Welsh people in a future referendum.
The Commission also presents us with the foundations for drawing up a Welsh Constitution.
Its framework for a Self-Determination Bill clearly outlines not only a path to independence but the principles that should underpin that journey.
I have no doubt that these values will find a strong endorsement among members of Plaid Cymru and, indeed, among the people of Wales as a whole.
The Commission makes practical recommendations for establishing a Statutory Commission to ensure that this happens, including the creation of Citizens Assemblies to elevate awareness, participation, and involvement.
These proposals will be in Plaid Cymru’s Programme for Government that we will put before the people of Wales in the election next May. This is an exciting opportunity for the ultimate exercise in participatory democracy.
The Constitution is the chance for us to envision the nation we want to be.
In 1993 Plaid Cymru drew up its own draft Constitution of an independent Wales. It was a young, bespectacled Adam Price that led the initiative as Director of Policy. I don’t mind admitting I was a bit of a geek – reading constitutions at the weekend was my idea of fun.
Our 1993 draft guaranteed equality on the basis of not just of race, sex, language and religion, but also ability and sexual orientation too – which if enacted at the time would have meant Wales being one of the countries with the most radically inclusive statements of equality anywhere in the world. But as progress cannot stand still, today we would want to add our clear and unequivocal commitment to trans rights too.
Our 1993 vision included in the constitution of an independent Wales social and economic and language and environmental rights.
The right to housing. To a minimum income. To free health care. To a job. To workers voices on company boards and a clear pathway to worker ownership. To a pollution-free environment. The right for every child to leave school fully bilingual.
Writing our future constitution today we will have new ideas about the Wales we want to create and through digital technology we can ensure that every one of our 3.3 million citizens has a role to play in shaping it.
Deciding the constitutional future of Wales cannot be for any one faction or political party, but for the people as a whole.
Our Welsh Constitution won’t just have founding fathers but mothers, sons, and daughters too.
That is after all the very essence of independence, a constitution of the people of Wales, by the people of Wales, for all the people of Wales.
This is the spirit of the New Wales. We can feel it stirring around us.
It’s in the very atmosphere that our political antennae are picking up.
It’s in the surge of support for the independence movement.
It’s in the crumbling walls of the Westminster parliament – its politics like its architecture in irreversible decay.
It’s in the discovery that there are influential governments in Edinburgh, Belfast, and Cardiff more capable than the Westminster cabal.
Above all, it’s implicit in the present Covid crisis – the sense that something new and better must come out of this.
In the spring, next May I believe that feeling will be palpable.
The people of Wales have been through so much in these past months, they will not want to waste the opportunity offered to them.
There is a saying in Welsh – “nid da lle gellir gwell.” Good is good – but better carries it.
Wales’ Labour Government may have been more cautious, more careful than its Westminster counterpart and won warranted praise for doing so.
But that was some low bar – it’s high time we raised it.
The electors won’t just want to carry on with the Old Wales. They will be looking for a new direction, one that offers hope, vision, ambition.
They will be looking for a New Wales.
It is our job in Plaid Cymru to provide that hope for real, radical change.
What do I mean exactly by the New Wales that is such a contrast with the old?
Let me provide two examples.
In the Senedd in the past few weeks we’ve been debating a Spatial Strategy for Wales, how we envisage the regions of our country should be organised to ensure balanced and equitable economic development.
And we’ve been presented with two maps: one of them old; one of them new.
The old map is Labour’s map.
It divides Wales into four regions, one for the north, one each for the Swansea and Cardiff City Regions, and one for the middle.
This division is a reaction to UK Government priorities. They include the City Deals and the long-projected Shared Prosperity Fund, through which they’re planning to by-pass the Senedd.
These old regions write off three-quarters of Wales in terms of economic and cultural viability.
They are blind to the need for improved north-south communications.
They are part of an historic, all-too-familiar agenda that would drive a wedge within Wales, and looks outside of Wales for our salvation.
They see Powys, Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and the north east of our country as adjuncts to metropolitan England.
And they neglect those parts of Wales most in need of regeneration, the rural, western seaboard, and the southern Valleys.
We in Plaid Cymru have a completely different vision – a new map for a New Wales.
Rather than treat Wales as an appendage of England – whether that’s Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine or Western Gateway, we want to build up a Welsh dynamo, focusing on Wales’ unique needs and opportunities.
We will distribute wealth, power, and investment equitably across the whole of Wales by targeting intervention to the areas in most need. We will improve connectivity from north to south as well as east to west.
We will unlock the development potential of the whole of our diverse nation in ways compatible with the pressing need to address the environmental challenge.
In short, our map is a map of the independent Wales of the future – not of the western Britain of our past.
My second example is unfair access to housing, the heart of the modern crisis of inequality that has been thrown into sharp relief by the Covid pandemic.
Working class people, especially the young, are being priced out of the housing market. They are increasingly dependent on private landlords. They are living in sub-standard accommodation, having to pay more and more of their income on housing costs.
They are having to choose between paying rent or paying for food and heating or getting into arrears which renders them vulnerable to homelessness.
This is the old Wales. Labour’s policy is to underplay the extent of the housing need, and to overplay the role of large private developers in providing affordable homes, through Section 106 planning agreements with local authorities.
This policy has failed. And only a transformative new policy for a new Wales has a chance of meeting it. And that’s why we will create a new National Land and Housing Agency that will plan and execute a new mass programme of public house building the likes of which we have not seen for fifty years.
Old Wales, and its old policies will not cut it.
The transition to a New Wales is now a matter of urgency. We can no longer afford the luxury of leisurely, incremental change, constantly having to accommodate the crabbed conservatism and suspicious caution of Welsh Labour.
That is the way of the Old Wales. What our nation needs now is new leadership, not old management.
And the ultimate encapsulation of that will be independence itself.
When I launched my Seven Steps to Independence proposal as part of my leadership campaign in 2018, I suggested holding an Independence Referendum in 2030, following a decade-long process of “nation-building” and debate about Wales’ constitutional future – mindful of the fact that we must not just secure a referendum on independence but win it too.
The Independence Commission also adopted that kind of timescale as the basis for its recommendations. However, the momentum of change now means that this period must be foreshortened.
There are two pressing reasons for this.
First, devolution itself – that most basic democratic principle that decisions affecting Wales should be made in Wales – is under attack from Boris Johnson’s Conservatives as even the Welsh Government acknowledges. Westminster has never seen itself as Wales’ partner in constitutional terms, but now it is devolution’s enemy openly seeking every opportunity to subvert and reverse our hard-won democracy.
Secondly, change elsewhere in these islands continues to accelerate. The demand for another independence referendum in Scotland is becoming unstoppable, notwithstanding Boris Johnson’s objections. By 2025 Scotland could well be an independent country. And Brexit has also given further impetus to the calls for a united Ireland.
These pressures, becoming stronger by the day, means that Wales is in real danger of being be left behind as part of a rump United Kingdom, in a new England-and-Wales formation – which would be the ultimate worst of all worlds.
The Independence Commission’s recommendation is for two referendums – the first one exploratory to gauge people’s views in order to persuade the UK Government to hold a binary referendum.
I understand the rationale for this idea – and two-stage and multi-option referendum has been proposed recently in the case of Scotland, though in this case by Unionists with a very different agenda to our own.
How the national question is framed and when is ultimately a decision for our people.
The last two polls on independence put it on its highest support in history.
An argument once derided as a pipe dream has moved from the margins to the mainstream.
We can see it. We can sense it.
That is why I can pledge today that subject to party approval a Plaid Cymru Government, able to command a majority in the Senedd, will offer a referendum on independence for Wales in its first term. From 1997 to 2011, a gap of fourteen years took us from Assembly to a Parliament. By 2025 fourteen years will have elapsed again and it will be right to give the people of Wales the chance to choose an independent future.
It is many small, independent countries which I have found myself casting an envious eye towards in recent weeks, in search of ideas and inspiration on how Wales could better respond to the Covid pandemic.
Slovakia – a nation of 3.6 million – tested most of its population for Covid in just one weekend, identifying 38,000 new cases in just those two days.
Finland – 400 deaths in a nation of 5.5 million and just 47.5 cases per 100,000 of the population in recent weeks.
We are those countries. Similar size, equally proud, every bit as able.
We are not the ones holding us back. We are the ones propelling us forward – free from the large and small “C” Conservative forces – who feed us crumbs when our land is one of plenty.
The horse has bolted and it’s too late to close the stable door. Naysayers have turned to convertible doubters. Confident is replacing curious.
On highways and byways, the traffic moves to the beat of YesCymru on the bridges above.
Banners and marches fuel our fire, but the Welsh spring can only truly bloom at the ballot box in May.
If you want independence, you have to vote for it.
Unionists may cook up another fake faux-federalist vow.
But we can make a real “vow” together – a vow to work hard to win hearts and minds, to take others on the journey from sceptic to supporter, and to secure the fairest democracy of all, one where decisions about Wales are made in Wales.
And while hollow words still ring around the hallowed halls of Westminster, we will keep our vow, for Wales.
It’s fitting that I make this speech on this day of all days. The 11th December, Dydd Llywelyn yr ail, Llywelyn ein llyw olaf, when our independence was struck down tragically on the banks of the Irfon.
Llywelyn’s head, legend has it was, was washed in a spring near the village of Cilmeri. And then displayed in London with a crown of ivy, to mock him.
But ivy, knotted tight and evergreen, was to the Celts a symbol of rebirth, the ultimate spring that can wash away injustice.
As the poet Patrick Jones reminded us at his speech at the Merthyr rally we can learn from our tragic, yet glorious past but the key is to work hard “to instigate a positive, shining future. A future where no one is homeless. Where everyone has a meaningful, life-supporting job. Where everyone has access to a dentist and a doctor. Where aspiration is not limited by postcode. Where everyone has the chance to learn and speak Welsh. Where everyone will be cared for and supported in old age. Where everyone, no matter their age, gender, class, colour, religion, disability, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation has equal opportunities.”
The halls of our past and of our princes are long gone.
The hall of our future is ours to own and ours now to build.