Exclusive: Jill Evans MEP, President of Plaid Cymru, fraternal address to conference
Cyfeillion, diolch yn fawr am y cyfle i annerch eich cynhadledd flynyddol. Rwy’n dod a chyfarchion cynnes o Gymru.
Friends, thank you so much for the opportunity to address your annual conference – my first time ever in an SNP conference. My political education is now complete!
I bring you warmest wishes from Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales. You have no idea how inspired we are by your success! We were delighted to welcome Angus McNeil to our conference to give us the inside view of the exciting developments in Scotland. The ties that bind our two parties have grown and strengthened over many years of working together and are more important than ever today as we continue forward on our constitutional journeys. Some of us a little bit quicker than others, it must be said (!) ….. But good things come to those who wait – and work.
And while you may be further along the road to independence, we have Gareth Bale…! That’s the only football joke I’ll make – but we look forward to the return match in Glasgow!
It’s a particular honour to be here in this most significant of weeks with the signing of the Edinburgh Agreement. Your strides towards an independent Scotland will not only bring freedom to the people of Scotland but will change the future of Wales too. While giving you every support in your campaign, we will also be ensuring that Wales finds it proper place in the new scenario that emerges. We are determined to secure the control to strengthen our economy and create the jobs we badly need to build a better future.
And what happens in Scotland is not only of great interest to us in Wales, it is also of direct and immediate relevance as it will inevitably reshape the future constitutional relationships between our nations. The constitutional status quo is no longer an option. The Edinburgh Agreement “paves the way to a new partnership between the nations of these islands” as your First Minister said earlier this week. I can assure you than an independent Scotland will have no closer partner or ally than my own nation.
Crucially, you have ensured that this referendum on your national future will be designed in Scotland by and for the people of Scotland in your democratically elected parliament. And for the first time ever the voting age will be lowered to sixteen for this referendum, fulfilling a pledge that has long been a policy ambition of your party and mine. You in the SNP have made it clear that this referendum is for all of the people of Scotland, and giving 16 and 17 year olds a direct stake in this historic decision will inspire a new generation of Scots.
There’s never been a more exciting time to be a nationalist in Scotland or in Wales.
Looking back over the history of our two parties, it may be hard to believe, but this coming second of November will be the forty fifth anniversary of the SNP’s victory at the historic Hamilton By-election. Forty five years since Winnie Ewing took her seat in the House of Commons alongside Plaid Cymru’s Gwynfor Evans. Of course I’m nowhere near old enough to remember that myself, but so began a political alliance that has endured almost half a century, through good times, and occasionally less good times.
An alliance which now continues not just at Westminster but in the European Parliament where I sit alongside the SNP’s Ian Hudghton and Alyn Smith. I can tell you that Scotland couldn’t have two stronger champions in Europe.
From fisheries to farming, from energy policy to trade, you have in Ian and Alyn two tireless standard bearers for Scotland’s interests. I previously had the pleasure of working with the late Sir Neil MacCormick who did such groundbreaking work on internal enlargement – making the legal case for ‘statehood from within’ in the European Union. We didn’t know then how crucial those issues would become in a short space of time. What we did know was that no-one else was taking them seriously. Well they are now!
I know that from the interest that other MEPs show in developments here. And things feel different here. You can feel the optimism in the air, not just at this conference, but outside the hall. There is a confident air of expectation and of better times to come.
That is true beyond these borders. There are exciting developments in Flanders, Catalonia and the Basque Country. It was incredible to see a million and a half people marching in Barcelona last month to demand independence. Last weekend the N-VA had incredible success in the local elections in Flanders and our colleague in the European Parliament, Frieda Brepoels, was elected Mayor of Bilzen.
Each of our situations is unique: unique constitutionally, unique historically, unique legally, but as nationalists who work together in Europe, we all share the same enthusiasm, excitement and expectation that a more prosperous future lies ahead of us as independent members of the European family of nations.
This is not the ‘federation of nation states’ that the President of the European Commission referred to in his State of the Nation address in September. That’s not the answer to the economic, environmental and democratic crisis. We can’t fix the crisis using the same policies that caused it. We do need change, but that means real change – a new partnership between all the real nations of Europe. A new democracy and the freedom to decide on our own future.
As Europe changes and evolves, so too does the relationship between the nations of the UK. Decisions that affect Scotland are best made in Scotland, decisions that affect Wales are best made in Wales, not by those who have no mandate to govern in your country or in mine. That is the normal way of doing things. We have the right to make those decisions. But that will strengthen, not weaken, a social union in the UK.
Just as our sense of Welshness or Scottishness hasn’t been dependent on the existence of a Scottish or Welsh state, neither does Britishness or British identity need the existence of the current British state. We are determined that Wales will make its full contribution to the new social union.
It’s interesting that the First Minister of Wales refuses to learn economic lessons from Scotland but he’s more than happy to take Trident from Scotland! In June he suggested if the SNP wanted to remove the fleet of nuclear submarines from Faslane they would be welcomed in Milford Haven. Well scores of protesters outside our Assembly building have been putting him straight. We in The Party of Wales believe in peace. It’s obscene that one hundred billion pounds is spent on weapons of mass destruction. That money should be spent on essential public services – those very services which are being cut by the UK government. It could be spent on creating jobs. And that message is the louder and clearer for coming from both our parties.
Our new leader, Leanne Wood, has declared that one of the first acts of the next Plaid Cymru government will be to establish our own national powerhouse for green energy, investing in national infrastructure projects, from tidal energy to community owned hydro and wind power – investing profits for the benefit of the people of Wales. We have promoted a buy local policy of public procurement to source as many public sector contracts as possible within Wales. This is a comparatively simple but effective way of boosting the economy and boosting the confidence of smaller companies too. We can create thousands of jobs by investing in major projects like schools, hospitals and transport – if we have the power to make decisions on our economy.
That is our priority. Change is inevitable and now unstoppable. You are the catalyst of that change.
I have never forgotten Winnie Ewing’s words “We are not just the dreamers of dreams, we are the movers and shakers”. The SNP is moving and shaking the political ground and the outcome will be a better future for the people of Scotland and all the peoples of Europe.
We are with you. Ymlaen! Forward!
Diolch yn fawr.