Adam Price MS: Wales is on a path towards independence

The Plaid Cymru leader sets out his vision for Wales, following the party's virtual conference.

Wales as a country has been going round in vicious circles for decades, our feet tied to a rusting anchor of poverty tearing away at our nation’s core.  

We in Plaid Cymru have a clear goal for our country: we want to stand on our own two feet, independent, free and equal with other nations across the world.

But in becoming an equal nation we have our eyes on a higher goal: of becoming a Nation of Equals.

Income inequality means lower life expectancy, lower literacy and numeracy, lower social opportunity. It means higher infant mortality, higher crime, obesity, mental illness and addiction. It means not just greater unfairness for some, but greater misery for all of us because unequal societies are universally unhappy on every single score.  Remember the pandemic lesson, we are all connected. 

To become a Nation of Equals our small country will need ideas that are big and bold. This really is a time to leap, because small steps just won’t cut it anymore.

Giant leap for Wales

Managing child poverty, homelessness and pollution simply won’t do. We have to eradicate them in the same way we are trying to eliminate this virus. This isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the hard-headed, logical and more cost-effective one too.  Every pound invested in homelessness returns triple. Ending child poverty is the best investment in our collective future that we could ever make. Why manage a problem when we can solve it?

And being a true Nation of Equals means turning every form of injustice from hallmark of our present to footnote of our past.  A Wales that tolerates racial injustice or gender inequality, prejudice against the disabled, homophobia or transphobia or antisemitism or islamophobia or ageism or classism will never be fair or free.

Many of us are inspired by the language of build back better. But let’s lay the foundations of permanent change. Let’s Change Wales for Good.

Change this year has been a disruptive, destructive force in our lives. But it can be a force for good. That’s the change we so desperately need. The change that changes everything so we can focus on the things that matters most to us.

Imagine if we redesigned everything to put that humanity at its heart. Now that’s what I’d call change worth voting for. 

How to begin

So where should we start?  Well, think of what we have learned over the last few months.  It’s the young, young people and young families that are bearing the biggest brunt of society’s uneven burdens.  We need to give them hope for tomorrow and a helping hand today.

That means: Universal free childcare for every family and for every child from age one on. A Welsh Child Payment for every child in a family who needs it. A guaranteed job for every young person that needs one, working on a green recovery, caring for our children, for our elderly, for our planet.

And it means hundreds of pounds off the bill for the average family by reforming the unfair Council Tax – as a first step to replacing it with something fairer altogether.

We have seen how important having a home is this year, but it’s never been more difficult today to own your own and in the rental sector next year an epidemic of evictions looms.

Homes for all

Well here’s my commitment, we will solve the housing crisis in Wales. 

We’ll build 10,000 homes a year. Public homes on public land. Genuinely affordable, high-quality and to the highest environmental standards – 50,000 during our first five year term – 30,000 social homes, 15,000 affordable purchase homes and 5,000 affordable rental homes.

That means taking 30,000 families off Council House waiting lists, giving 15,000 first time buyers genuinely affordable homes and starting to build up a stock of publicly owned affordable cost rental housing. This will be the biggest public housing programme since the 1970s.

And while we’re doing that, we’ll end no-fault evictions, and freeze and cut unfair rent in the private rented sector.  We’ll tax second homes and end the housing blight in our rural communities. 

A caring society          

And we’ll start to put the young unemployed back to work in a national plan to retrofit every house in Wales to end fuel poverty and decarbonise our country.

And here’s a third and final priority that should be at the core of everything we do: care, those who provide it, and those that need it. 

The pandemic has held up to us a dark mirror of how we’ve organised our society – and it’s a sobering sight.  Care has been the forgotten sector, underfunded, undervalued, its workers under-paid because the State – even under a Labour Government – outsourced to private firms on the clear understanding that they would provide the maximum number of care hours at the minimum price.  We’ve seen where that has led us. 

When I’m First Minister I will never allow that to happen again. We will introduce parity between the pay scales in the care and healthcare sectors and give NHS workers the decent pay rise for which they are currently campaigning.

We’ll bring care back where it belongs, a public service, publicly funded, paying decent wages – a minimum of £10 an hour – in the public sector.  And as part of a National Health and Care Service, social care, like healthcare, will be free to all who need it. 

Path to independence

The first 100 days of a Plaid Cymru government will be more radical than the preceding 20 years: Caring, building and believing – in a good life for everyone and a better life for you and your family.

Changing Wales for Good. Now that’s something worth believing in.   Not just for the better but changing Wales for ever.  Putting us on a new path permanently ultimately means independence. But that journey to a better, fairer future – a Nation of Equals – starts today.

Adam Price MS is the leader of Plaid Cymru.

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