Plaid Cymru Spring Conference - Leader's Speech
Leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price MS delivered his leader's speech at the Plaid Cymru Spring Conference 2021 on the 5th March. The full speech is available below.
"I speak to you at a time we traditionally mark as a turning point, when the world’s tilted axis propels us from a season of darkness to a season of light, from the winter of our despair to a great spring of hope.
This year that hope is a deep yearning for change. That better days are coming.
The determined hope that all the pain and sorrow and grief of this cruel year will not be forgotten. And certainly will not have been in vain. History teaches us to believe in the power and possibility of hope.
No event since World War Two has had as intense, as complete, as global an impact as COVID-19.
But therein too lies a great seed of hope.
Because in the shadow of that war, exhausted, and with all the privations that they faced, a generation vowed across the world that they would not go back to things as they were before.
That’s the historic opportunity we have in front of us in the next few weeks.
In our time too we are called to be a generation that when confronted by the failures of our past through the challenges of our present, decides to face the future together.
Every crisis is in some sense a crossroads.
But this one is the most profound we are likely to have experienced in our life-times.
Do we now stick to the road we were already on before misfortune befell us, or do we seek out a new direction?
Well, the year we have had should give us our answer.
The word emergency comes from the Latin word for emergence – to bring to light.
And Covid-19 has certainly shone a painfully penetrating light on the prior pandemic, the deep social disease, chronic and debilitating, of inequality and poverty, of low pay and poor housing that has defined so many of our communities.
The cancer, long diagnosed but left untreated, that has gnawed away at the lives and the life-chances of too many of our people for far too long. All over the world the thick spike proteins of this awful disease have latched on to poverty with a grim predictability. Among developed countries, it is those with deeper inequalities that have the highest number of deaths – the United States and the United Kingdom – as societies not united but divided by class, geography, race and wealth – principal among them.
But Wales, by January, had suffered the worst death rate even in the context of Britain.
It will be for a future public inquiry to give us the accurate diagnosis of the successes and failures of the response to the pandemic. But I think we can confidently predict that history’s verdict will be kinder to the Welsh Government than it will be to Westminster.
However, one thing we don’t need an inquiry to tell us is why, with a disease that has placed the greatest burden on the poor, Wales has suffered the most. It’s because we already had among the highest sickness levels and lowest life expectancies in Europe; because poverty has scarred our communities over decades like Covid this last year our lungs.
Behind those terrible daily headlines, the cumulative toll of the last twelve months, are individual human tragedies. But the scale of our suffering points to a deeper collective truth.
If we are to choose the direction we want to take as a country in a few short weeks then let us acknowledge and confront that truth. We are not the country that we should be. We are not the country that we can be. And we are not the country we want to be.
The statistics tell the story. There are 70,000 children in poverty in Wales that don’t even receive free school meals. 67,000 families on housing waiting lists. Over half of our care workers are paid less than the Real Living Wage. Let this be the year when we say no more. No more child hunger. No more homelessness and housing crisis. No more poverty pay.
So as we all of us, united as one, over the next few weeks and months roll up our sleeves to receive our jabs, let’s also commit to doing the collective work we need to heal the deeper wounds of this nation.
Let’s ask ourselves “When all this is over, how do we want our world and our Wales to be different?”
One of the worst things we could do is fall into the trap of believing that we were doing ok before disaster struck, and that all we need to do is get back on that path – with a few minor adjustments. That’s not hope. That’s false optimism. It’s self-delusion and complacency. It is the conservatism of incumbency, in a moment that is crying out for change.
That change can’t be delivered by me. It can only be delivered by us. All of us, together, resolved to do things differently because in the shadow of death we have realised the preciousness of life.
We were not the first to live through one of humanity’s great wake up calls. 75 years ago people in nations across the world decided they would solvethe great problems of their age – rather than learning to live with them.
We had a generation of political leaders, not least here in Wales, that were committed not to ameliorating poverty but eradicating it, and in the decades after World War Two, Wales and the world made unprecedented strides toward reducing childhood mortality, increasing life expectancy, expanding literacy, and much else besides.That’s the scale of ambition and the breadth of vision that is required of us today.
I was a product of the foundations laid in those decades of hope. I was born in a council house; my father had a good wage working as a face worker thanks to the National Coal Board; my mother saved up for a deposit on her own home which she bought for the princely sum of £3500 and clung on to despite the best efforts of Mrs Thatcher; all three of us as children went to University.
I was born at a time when society took its caring responsibilities, from cradle to grave, as seriously materially as did my own parents emotionally. Fifty years later and we find ourselves in a very different place. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed, as the editor of the Lancet has written, how little care and protection we provide at either end of the age spectrum. We have systematically neglected our elderly with a care system hopelessly starved of resources. We have spent decades underinvesting in education, leaving generations of children to struggle, with little hope and dwindling prospects – and a third of them in Wales growing up in poverty. For so many of them life is a lottery where they’re even denied the ticket.
Pan y cefais y fraint o gael f’ethol yn arweinydd y Blaid ddwy flynedd a hanner yn ôl, mi ddywedais bryd hynny ein bod ni’n barod i arwain. Mai ynom ni mae fflam y gobaith lle bu anobaith – ac na fyddai neb yn cael eu gadael ar ôl wrth i ni greu Cymru ffyniannus, hunan hyderus ac annibynnol.
Mae’r byd wedi newid ers hynny, ac er gwaeth i lawer. Dros y flwyddyn ddiwethaf bu galar a gwleidyddiaeth yn cael eu trafod fel un. Diolch i arwyr ein gwasanaeth iechyd, mae mwy a mwy ohonom yn bachu ar y cyfle i gael y brechlyn. Mae’n plant a’n hathrawon yn mynd yn ôl i’r stafell ddosbarth wedi misoedd o ddysgu o’r stafell fyw. Ac mae’n busnesau yn edrych ymlaen i wanwyn wenu wedi’r gaeaf gysgu.
Mae popeth ar newid, ac mae angen i’n gwleidyddiaeth newid hefyd.
Dyma’r amser i gyflymu’r broses o wireddu’r hyn a ddyweddais fis Medi 2018.
I symud Cymru ymlaen a’i chodi o’r newydd, troi hen feddylfryd yn syniadau blaengar ac ail flaenoriaethu yn lle ail ethol yr un Llywodraeth.
Nid yr ateb i dlodi, afiechyd a chyflogau isel yw gwneud yr un peth dro ar ôl tro. Dyw’r canlyniad ddim gwell nac yn wahanol. Ond ddaw dim chwaith o siarad yn haniaethol am y Gymru y dymunwn iddi fod.
Am yn rhy hir mae’r gofod sy’n gyfforddus i ni wedi bod yn wagle estron i eraill wrth geisio ennyn ewyllys da’r etholwyr.
Os yw Llafur pob tro’n ein siomi a’r Ceidwadwyr yn cadarnhau’n ofnau gwaethaf – yna pwy ydym ni?
Er mwyn cael clust i wrando, mae angen stori i’w dweud. O Gei Conna i Gei Newydd, Amlwch i Aberafan – mi fyddwn yn Lywodraeth i Gymru gyfan – ei phobl, ei hiaith, ei sefydliadau a’i dyheuadau. O’r crud i’r bedd – fe weithiwn ni gyda chi, gofalu amdanoch chi a’ch helpu chi.
Byddwn yn buddsoddi yn ein hadnodd mwyaf gwerthfawr – ein pob ifanc – gyda chwystrelliad o arian newydd i’n ysgolion. I deuluoedd Cymru rwy’n addo bargen deg drwy gynnig addysg blynyddoedd cynnar hael sy’n darparu 30 awr o ofal plant yn rhad ac am ddim i bob plentyn dyflwydd oed. Yn ogystal a rhoi cyfle i’r ifanc byddwn yn sicrhau urddas i’n henoed wrth ddarparu gofal cymdeithasol rhad ag am ddim.
Awn yn bellach nag unrhyw Lywodraeth flaenorol yng Nghymru. Awn ati i gwblhau’r gwaith na ddechreuwyd gan Lywodraeth flaenorol yng Nghymru. Wrth i’r Blaid Lafur roi’r bel yn eu rhwyd eu hunain yn wythnosol, ni fydd ateb Cymru i Marcus Rashford – yn dechrau drwy ymestyn prydau ysgol am ddim i bawb ar y credyd cynhwysol. A gwobrwywn waith teilwng gyda chyflog teg o £10 yr awr i weithwyr gofal.
Plaid Cymru mewn grym – ar eich ochr, wrth eich ochr ac o blaid Cymru.
Rwy’n gwybod pa mor anodd yw hi ar bobl. Rwy’n cofio’r tocyn cinio – rwy’n cofio’r teulu’n ceisio cael dau ben llinyn ynghyd. Rwy’n gwybod bod beichiau bywyd yn heriol – chi fel fi yn gweld un rhiant yn gofalu am un arall. Rwyf hefyd yn gwybod beth yw grym y drws sy’n agor – yr help llaw sy’n lwybr i lwyddiant.
Nid pob plentyn ysgol oedd yn rhoi ei fryd ar fynd o Dŷ Croes i Dŷ’r Cyffredin – ac o wybod beth rwy’n gwybod nawr fyddwn innau ddim chwaith o gael fy amser eto! Ond o leiaf rwyf wedi byw trwy annhegwch a theimlo grym gobaith – ac rwy’n gwybod pa mor bwysig yw pontio rhwng y nail a’r llall.
Er gwaetha’r normal newydd, bydd gwaddol yr hen ffordd o fyw yn wreiddyn pydredig. Dim ond plannu hadau newydd yn y gwanwyn Cymreig fydd yn sicrhau blagur bytholwyrdd.
Mae naw wythnos yn mynd i benderfynu’r pum mlynedd nesaf. I bobl yng Nghymru rwy’n dweud hyn: Mi fydd ein rhaglen lywodraethol er lles cymdeithas yn drawsnewidiol, a’r cyntaf o’i fath yng Nghymru. Yn hytrach na gwarchod buddianau breintiedig, adeiladwn bartneriaethau newydd sy’n rhoi llais ein cymumedau’n gyntaf.
Tai cymdeithasol newydd i feithrin cymunedau Cymraeg eu hiaith a Chymreig eu gwerthoedd o ran chwarae teg i bawb. Troi’r filltir sgwar yn filltir fwyd i gadw’r bunt yn lleol. A thalu’r cyflog byw i bawb sy’n gweithio yn ein gwasanaethau cyhoeddus.
Naw wythnos i argyhoeddi. Naw wythnos i newid meddyliau ac ennill calonnau. Naw wythnos i ethol Llywodraeth Plaid Cymru. Mae’r wobr yn fawr. Ni yw’r blaid gyntaf yn hanes ein democratiaeth fodern i sefyll ar addewid o gynnal refferendwm ar annibyniaeth i Gymru erbyn 2026.
Ni yw’r blaid gyntaf i roi hawl democrataidd ein pobl i ddewis eu dyfodol ar y papur pleidleisio. A ninnau fyddai’r Llywodraeth gyntaf i ddangos ffydd gwirioneddol yng Nghymru i reoli ei ffawd ei hun. Nid ennill annibyniaeth jesd er mwyn ennill yw’r nôd. Ond yn hytrach er mwyn y miloedd o deuluoedd sy’n dibynnu ar
Lywodraeth fwy effeithiol, mwy cyfrifol a mwy dyngarol mewn grym fydd yn newid eu bywydau er gwell. Hawdd i Lafur ddechrau clochdar am ymreolaeth gyda’r etholiad ar y gorwel. Hawdd i’r Ceidwadwyr ganu clodydd Prif Weinidog Prydeinig sy’n prysur droi Senedd yn syrcas.
Ond hawsach fyth yw gweld y gwirionedd. Boed yn ‘Home Rule’ neu ‘Tory Rule’ – yr un yw’r canlyniad i’n cenedl - plaid wrth y llyw sy’n rhoi Llundain cyn Cymru.
42 o flynyddoedd yn ôl i’r wythnos hon roeddwn i’n fachgen deg oed – yn cofio ond nid cweit yn dirnad y dicter a’r siom o ddysgu fod Cymru wedi dweud ‘na’ i greu Cynulliad ei hun yn refferendwm ’79.
Bu rhaid aros ugain mlynedd arall am y Senedd honno - yn aniddig ac yn ddiamynedd - gan wybod y gall Cymru wneud cymaint yn well.
Heddiw, mae bwganod ’79 yn bygwth unwaith eto – yn corddi casineb ac yn cwestiynu hawl Cymru i fod.
Ond er gwaethaf diflastod pleidlais NA saith deg naw, dal ati wnaeth y Blaid – yn gyson ac yn gadarn yn ein coel mai ni’n hunain wnaiff sicrhau gwell dyfodol i Gymru, nid yr un Llywodraeth yn Llundain waeth beth fo’i lliw. Arwain y farn gyhoeddus nid dilyn y farn gyhoeddus. Drwy ffurfio cynghreiriau a chydweithio ag eraill drwy galedi’r wythdegau, fe adeiladon ni symudiad dros hunan-lywodraeth i Gymru erbyn troad y ganrif. Pan fo Plaid Cymru’n llwyddo, mae Cymru’n llwyddo. Pan fo pobl Cymru yn pleidleisio o blaid Cymru, gennym ni mae’r grym. Ac yn 2011, y Blaid mewn grym wnaeth ddelifro Senedd go iawn i Gymru, gan droi mwyafrif NA 79 yn IE mawr dros Gymru: o 4 i 1 yn erbyn i 2 i 1 o blaid mewn cenhedlaeth. Tro byd byddai hyd yn oed Wayne Pivac yn falch o honi. Y cwestiwn syml felly i unrhyw un sydd am weld pobl Cymru yn dod yn benseiri ein dyfodol ein hunain: pwy ydych chi’n ymddiried ynddyn nhw i gyflawni hynny: y Blaid sydd a hunan-lywodraeth Cymru yn rheswm ei bod, neu plaid sydd am glymu ein tynged ni a system sydd erioed wedi malio am Gymru?
Britain isn’t working for us anymore – the Britain of my parents’ generation, a brave and hopeful place, no longer exists, it has been erased from the landscape and in its place, we have the moral vacuum that is Westminster.
We are a nation which values above all else kindness, empathy and cooperation locked into a political system increasingly based on selfishness and greed. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the reality of modern Britain: a state defined by crushing poverty, ruled by a corrupt elite that gives contracts to its friends and denies furlough to its neighbours. It’s no surprise is it that this week saw the highest level of support for Welsh independence ever.
The future cannot be like the past. And it will not be if we decide our own future. The poverty we see around us as a nation is not our destiny. But it is our moment of truth. Seize that moment and there is nothing that is impossible.
We can and will end child hunger in Wales. We will extend free school meals beginning with those families on Universal Credit. If our children are too hungry to grow, to think and learn then that is not only a moral abomination it is a practical imperative that we do something about it if we regard the next generation, as we surely must, as our nation’s most treasured asset.
We can and will end homelessness and the housing crisis in Wales. We will set a target of 10,000 truly affordable homes a year. If we could build at that rate in the 1970s and in the 1950s then why can’t we do so now? We can end poverty pay for those that care for the elderly and the sick, starting with a £10 an hour minimum wage for the care workers we have clapped.
The First Minister says these policies are unaffordable. We say it is inhumanity we cannot afford. It’s inequality we cannot tolerate. And injustice we cannot embrace. What are we if we accept a child going hungry, a family homeless a care worker on poverty pay? And at what cost in broken lives and broken promises to build the good society? The religion of socialism is the language of priorities, so said Aneurin Bevan. Well, I cannot speak for the First Minister’s socialism but the poor, the unhoused and the hungry, our under-paid key workers that have kept us alive, the struggling small business and family farm that are the backbone of our economy, all those crying out for help, they will be the priorities for us because they are the people that our democracy should serve.
With the closure of schools, and the scourge of unemployment the young have carried the greatest burden. So the starting point of change has to be a better future for them. Let’s value education every bit as much as we do our health. Parents everywhere have realised the value of schools and appreciated the hard work of teachers. We will put thousands of new teachers into those classrooms, not just to catch up on the last twelve months but the last decade of cuts. We will guarantee a job or high-class training to every young person that needs it. And we will give older workers a lifelong learning entitlement, a £5000 training voucher, so they can retrain throughout their lives.
It is not only young people who are bearing the brunt of Covid’s consequences – their families too have been juggling homeworking with home-schooling whilst balancing the household budget.That is why ensuring fair play for families will be at the heart of a Plaid Cymru government’s programme.
Our council tax policy will reform Labour’s outdated and deeply unfair system, resulting in a saving of hundreds of pounds for thousands and thousands of households. And we will offer more help to those who need it the most by making targeted payments of £10 a week per child, rising to £35 over our first term, to families in receipt of Universal Credit.
And we will offer more help with the cost of childcare too. By offering universal free childcare for everyone from 24 months and piloting the scheme from 12 months onwards in areas of the highest need, we will help parents get back to work and make the weekly budget go further – and give more of our children a fair start in life.
An Economy that Works for Everyone
To give us the resources we need to build the new Wales and create quality jobs in every part of our country, we will power up the Welsh economy, with agility, with urgency, with creativity and skill. Our rapid recovery plan will get our economy back on its feet. Our plan to prosper centred on a Green Economic Stimulus will create tens of thousands of jobs in renewables, energy efficiency, transport and digital infrastructure, giving us a future economy that will work not just for our people but for our planet too.
As a Government we will ensure more of our contracts go to local Welsh firms through a new pro-Local procurement policy, growing our own economy by watering the roots. We will offer start-up and bounce back loans to new and existing businesses, on the best possible terms through the Development Bank and a new Community Bank. And we will create a powerful new economic agency, staffed with the best talent that we can find, that will build up our home-grown businesses and identify new opportunities for them at home and abroad.
The last year has proven why we should treasure the NHS but also should give us added impetus to strengthen its foundations and further extend its reach. To build the best NHS we urgently need a plan to deliver a 1,000 new doctors and 5,000 new nurses and allied professionals so we can prevent burnout in over-stretched services from GPs to intensive care – and we need to pay our healthcare staff properly.
We need social care to be free to everyone and at long last integrated within the NHS as a single seamless service. And if this year has taught us nothing else, now surely is the time to see mental ill health given the same priority as the physical. We will increase the proportion of the NHS budget devoted to mental health every year. We will also ensure more interventionist disease prevention and health promotion campaigns across people’s lifetimes, prioritising in particular cancer prevention through a network of new diagnostic centres.
To finish on a bit of personal good news I’d like to share with you. I’m going to become a father again in June, this time to a baby daughter. So whatever happens in the election, it’s going to be a good Summer – though a busy one too. Becoming a parent has changed me. In ways I didn’t fully anticipate. It focuses your mind fully on the needs of someone other than yourself. It makes you think about the future in a different kind of way. And it makes you keenly aware of the advantages that some children possess, and some will never have.
I don’t think about the future any more in abstract terms. I think about the world and the Wales I want to bequeath to them. I think about having to look into their eyes about the choices that we make now and the opportunities for a better life that will give them and their generation.
That is why I am absolutely determined that we will place at the heart of our manifesto the most radical commitments to deal with the climate and biodiversity crisis that we have ever made in a Senedd election, because that is what this moment requires of us. Whatever happens in the election, my children will not go hungry. They will have a roof over their head. They will have a fair start in their life.
I want that for every child in Wales. No child left behind. No child forgotten. No child unaccounted for.
That’s the reason I’m standing here. It’s the reason I’m standing in this election, for the post of First Minister.
I want every child to have the chance that I had.
Within each of us there is still the child we once were. In me it’s a boy holding in his hand a little blue token for free school meals. I was hungry and you fed me. I needed a home and you housed me. I wanted to learn and you taught me. I was lifted up on the shoulders of a nation.
I want us to be that nation again so we know again that the generations that come after us will have greater opportunities than our own. I know you want to be that nation too. Now is our chance.
In many ways the moment in which we are living is an extraordinary moment, full of hope. Our task – our collective task – all of us, - is to reflect on what this moment demands of us, and what it might make possible.
It’s time to look beyond this appalling, cruel pandemic and towards a more optimistic future.
Hope is the rainbow after the storm – and it’s the sign our children have placed in our windows and chalked on our paths.
It’s time to follow that rainbow all the way to independence. It’s time to put hope at the centre of our politics. Our dreams of the Wales to come. We have a vision for that Wales. We have a coherent, determined and optimistic plan for national rejuvenation. Covid-19 has given us the reason – finally – not to rest until we have reframed our Wales and refashioned our world so that they are no longer divided between the healthy and the wealthy, the poor and the prosperous, because we have built a future where we invest together in all the forces – decent, affordable housing, good schools, liveable wages, a fair economy, clean air – that will create a Wales that works for all of us, a Nation of Equals, a safer, kinder and more prosperous haven for everyone, in good years and bad.
But to turn that vision into our new reality every one of us has a part to play. And now is the time.
If you believe in the promise of our future.
If you believe there is no problem in Wales that Wales cannot solve.
If you believe we can build the future together.
I ask you to do this one thing.
On May 6th, Vote for Wales.
Vote Plaid Cymru."
For a bird's eye view.
Am olwg oddi uchod.
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