Below is the text of the speech made by the Leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood, made to the party’s annual conference on 4th March 2013.
It was a pleasure to travel through Wales yesterday to reach Ynys Mon, to cross the bridge to reach the apex of our country ready for this most auspicious day, the 1st of March.
Ynys Mon, Mam Cymru – is special to Wales.
This is the county of so many Welsh firsts –
– the first comprehensive school was set up here, a great symbol of the best in our creative tradition,
– our first woman MP in Megan Lloyd George,
– the first branch of the Women’s Institute.
It is a fitting place for the first woman leader of Plaid Cymru to pay tribute to the first Plaid Cymru minister in the history of our party.
I want to say Thank you to Ieuan for his tremendous service to Ynys Mon and to Wales for more than a quarter of a century.
In 1987, his victory here as an MP will be remembered as a ray of light in a dismal decade for Plaid Cymru.
A breakthrough that gave this party heart and confidence for the years ahead.
In 1997, it was Ieuan’s tele-canvassers that helped this nation win the greatest prize. By winning the referendum which gave birth to our democracy.
It was in 1997 that we won our dignity.
The icing on the cake came in 2011, when Welsh public opinion crystallised in favour of Wales.
Those referendum results will be your most precious legacy, Ieuan.
In 2007 you took us into Government.
And let us be clear, that is the ultimate goal of a political party like ours.
Your shining example in that government will continue to provide us with inspiration for the years ahead.
So it is fitting that, here on your territory, I say thank you Ieuan – from me personally and on behalf of this party.
Diolch o galon.
Ynys Ieuan – sorry I mean Ynys Mon – represents our nation’s northernmost point.
It’s a perfect place to get a perspective on where Wales has been and where we are heading as a nation.
Since the financial crash of 2008, a lot has changed.
Yet we have a government in London ploughing ahead with its failed incompetent policies of austerity.
At the same time we have a ‘Welsh’ government in Cardiff happy to carry on with a mentality of ‘nothing to do with us Gov’.
Thinking about where we are and where we are going doesn’t mean looking back and dwelling on the past – although of course it’s vital to have an understanding of our history.
It is more important to look forward.
Ymlaen, as we say!
I say it’s time for us to chart our own course. We are Wales’ only national party.
Why? For one simple reason.
We want to build this country.
We want to unlock our people’s full potential.
We want to build a path of human progress.– not in the abstract, not in the comfortable and complacent corridors of power – but in the streets of every community, in the villages and in the valleys, where we live.
Our communities are important to Plaid Cymru.
Mae ymgyrch dwy fil ac un deg chwech yn dechrau nawr.
Heddiw. Yma. Gyda ni. Gyda chi.
Pam ydyn ni eisiau ennill yn dwy fil ac un deg chwech?
Achos dydy Cymru gwell ddim yn gallu aros.
Mae’r problemau yn ein cymunedau yng Nghymru yn ddwfn, yn ddwys ac yn mynd nol yn bell.
Mae rhaid i ni roi hwb i ein economi a chreu cymunedau sy’n ffit i wynebu heriau’r presennol a’r dyfodol.
Mae rhaid I ni roi ein holl ymdrech mewn i greu swyddi.
Gyda swyddi, daw hyder
Gyda hyder, mae popeth yn bosib
Fel rhywun sy’n ceisio dysgu Cymraeg, dwi’n deall pa mor bwysig yw hyder!
Mae’r iaith yn bwysig iawn i fi, a dwi eisiau gweld Cymru, yn y dyfodol, yn genedl ble mae Cymraeg yn un o ieithoedd y stryd ym mhob rhan o Gymru.
Mae’r Cyfrifiad wedi dod gyda newyddion ddrwg I ni
Mae’r ffigyrau yn dangos bod y nifer o siaradwyr Cymraeg yn mynd lawr.
Rydyn ni’n colli tua dwy fil o siaradwyr Gymraeg bob blwyddyn.
A beth mae’r llywodraeth Cymru yn gwneud am hyn?
Dim byd. Dim ond oedi.
Dim ond wythnos yma, gwnaeth Llafur atal cyflwyno safonau iaith.
Mae’r iaith, a’r economi yn holl bwysig yn ardaloedd fel fan hyn yn Sir Fon.
Ac ar hyd a lled y wlad, mae rhaid i ni cynnig cyfleoedd i bobl aros, byw a gweithio yn eu cymunedau.
Mae rhaid i ni creu dyfodol i’n pobl ifanc – gobaith i’r cenedl nesaf.
And that is why I have insisted on the economy and job creation being our number one priority since my election as Plaid Cymru leader nearly a year ago.
For thirty years Wales has had a poor deal from a succession of UK governments.
We’ve seen factories come and go, inward investment peaks and troughs.
And the gap between the rich and the poor has grown and grown.
It’s time this finally stopped
It is time to put government back on the side of the people
To have a government working to make sure people have the basics.
A decent home, with decent healthcare within a reasonable travel distance.
A job with decent pay so that the bills are affordable
It’s not difficult – with people in work on decent wages they pay into the tax pot
The more that goes into that tax pot, the more and better quality public services and social protection we can afford.
The current austerity drive has failed;
– the projections for economic growth have failed;
– the efforts to maintain the UK’s triple A credit status has failed;
– attempts to cut unemployment in Wales have failed.
Failure has been the hallmark of this discredited UK government.
And where is the opposition? It was up to Plaid Cymru MPs to lead the charge the bedroom tax this week on the floor of the House of Commons.
And it’s a good job that the Tories in the Assembly have their fingers on the pulse. Just this week, they’ve popped up to promise tax cuts for the better off!
Plaid Cymru wants to see policies that will help more businesses to start up– how will cutting taxes for those on the 40% rate help that?
Tackling business rates and a fairer capital gains tax system – these are the kinds of things that would make a difference.
Measures that would allow our wealth creators to flourish.
Measures that could be taken now if the Tories were really interested in helping business.
These are the priorities of Plaid Cymru and we will earn the right to govern our country by presenting a responsible, competent and business-friendly plan for boosting the Welsh economy.
We must make the most of the resources that we have. Our most precious resource is our people.
The road to our future will be built by people here.
If we as Welsh people don’t build it, it won’t be built.
We know we need better infrastructure, better communication links throughout our country.
Take a look at our rail. Why has it taken a century to electrify a single mile of our railways?
For one reason alone – because the switch that needed to be flicked lay idle in London.
We know that we cannot look to London to provide the answers.
That has been tried and failed. Friends, we’ve been a long time waiting.
That switch or the spark to power up our nation has to be in our hands.
We can achieve anything if we have the determination to shape and craft for ourselves as Idris Davies put it: “a future that is better than the past.”
And we can. We must.
We will create a future that is better than the past.
After all, what is this Welsh democracy for if not the possibility to do things differently?
We’ve worked hard for our democracy. Let’s use it.
It is a capacity that the Wales of our fore-mothers and fathers did not have.
We have the chance to make the most of our lives, to do the best we can do, to be the best that we can be.That was the spirit that inspired miners and quarry workers to build libraries and universities the length and breadth of Wales.
It is what inspired them to provide scholarships for thousands, so those who otherwise could not, should have a better future.
Our history will be what we make it.
And we can start today by imagining and believing in a different future.
I have led this party for almost a year.
It has been a proud and exhilarating experience and I am privileged to lead the only party which puts Wales first each and every time – without question.
What have I learned over the last year?
I’ve learned that people the length and breadth of Wales have an unquenchable hope, a huge appetite for a different course – an acceptance that we cannot continue as we are.
Our country contains an enormous well-spring of positive, creative, almost limitless social energy.
I have been inspired by the people I have met who want to make a difference to their world and their Wales.
We only need to look at our country’s success in sport. we are punching well above our weight on a world scale, in a wide variety of sports from cycling to rugby, football to tae kwondo.
And I pay tribute to those who made last weekend such a fantastic weekend of sport in Wales
– Becky James and Elinor Barker in the cycling
– The women’s and men’s teams in the rugby
– Swansea City winning the League Cup
– Wrexham at Wembley later this month
– And Cardiff City on the brink of the Premiership
Well done to all of you for doing our nation proud.
Welsh sports women and men give us a lot to be proud of, but also a lot to aspire to.
They have shown us what can be achieved with confidence, self-belief and the right opportunities.
Translate that for our nation, for our economy. With that right combination, there is no reason why Wales can’t be as or more successful than the scores of nations of a roughly similar size.
As in team sports, if we all pull together as a team this small nation can and will do great things.
People are calling out for a vision.
Yes, there is scepticism; that is hardly surprising. The old models of our economy, our politics, our environment are broken.
People are looking for new direction.
A new start.
I am determined to make sure they find it here, in the only party that this country of ours can rightly call its own. The Party of Wales.
For a vision to work it must be credible. It must set out where we want to go, but it must also set out the first steps on the journey.
Our vision is of an independent Wales – independent in spirit and in reality, not dependent on handouts from Brussels or from London, a country fuelled, not by charity, but by our own success. The question is how do we get there from here?
We live in the present and it’s in the present tense that we make ourselves relevant to people’s daily lives.
Our first steps will be outlined in our programme.
And it is with a relevant programme combined with a determination to fight for our communities, that we will make Anglesey proud again when Plaid Cymru wins here in May.
The work of building the new Wales starts here and it starts now.
And there is so much to be done.
This party has a raft of good policies which are ripe for the times in which we find ourselves.
So ripe in fact that the Welsh Government has had to adopt our ideas in the absence of their own
Our plan to take control of the national airport
Our plan to tackle the Council Tax benefit gap
Our plan for a public investment vehicle that we called “Build for Wales”
Our plan for a conversation on the Welsh language
Our plan for a science park on the Menai Straits
These are all policies pushed by the Party of Wales then adopted by the Welsh Government.
We are working hard, coming up with solutions that can be put in place now, to the problems that people face in their everyday lives.
And I am talking about these policies and discussing them in the public meetings I am holding with people up and down the land.
Plaid Cymru intends to talk to people in every single nook, cranny and corner of Wales.
And the more we talk with people in our communities and listen – the more we will get our policies and our programme of government right
I have set this party a big challenge.
Between now and 2016 I want us to have a million conversations with the people of Wales.
That’s a two-way conversation where we listen and take note of what people say
And during those conversations we will be positive, we will promote optimism for the future and hope
And we will offer practical solutions to the problems people are facing every day
Our campaign for the 2016 Assembly election has already begun.
Our campaign will have the energy and the excitement and the integrity to offer a real alternative.
It will be rooted in the participation of people in every city, in every town, in every county and in every village.
A campaign that will restore people’s faith in politics.
Plaid Cymru, the party of Wales must win that election.
We must win for the children of Wales.
One-quarter of the children in this country are growing up poor.
When they grow up, one-quarter of them will be unemployed.
40% of them will leave primary school not able to read and write to the standard expected of their age.
Thousands will be in schools in the quarter of all local education authorities that are currently in special measures.
We can do so much better than this.
Where is the sense of urgency we need in Welsh politics now?
We can’t afford to wait any longer before we see an improvement in standards within our education system.
There will be teenagers doing their GCSEs this Summer who have spent the whole of their education under devolution.
There can be no excuses, education is devolved in full.
These young people have watched as Wales; in the past a watchword for educational excellence, has slipped further and further behind – not just England, but behind 36 other countries in reading and 38 in maths.
And it is our boys who are falling behind the furthest. We must teach our boys the basics.
Unless the basics are right, we won’t get the rest right.
Plaid Cymru will implement a comprehensive literacy and numeracy programme with early intervention to specifically target boys, but aiming to make sure all children are performing to the best standard for them by the age of 11.
We want to see if we can utilise willing volunteers like retired teachers and other professionals in this work.
We want to extend the principles of the foundation phase to offer a much wider range of out of school and weekend activities which promote and support classroom based learning.
And we want to offer more vocational opportunities to young people to try a range of ‘trades’ before committing to an apprenticeship or college course.
Making sure trades are taught alongside business skills and/or co- operative skills will help to train the next generation to do the jobs we will need doing.
The government’s approach to education has shown nothing less than a shocking dereliction of duty, an absolute travesty.
For Wales – a country where in the past, great store was placed on the value of education it is extraordinary that it has now become one of our great failures.
The Welsh education system has become the graveyard of ambition.
When a child fails their education, the consequences stay with them for life.
Ask anyone who didn’t sit or who didn’t pass the 11 plus.
But when our education system fails our children, who takes responsibility? To date, no one.
Not one education minister has ever been sacked for poor results.
All too often, failure is rewarded with promotion.
My view is that the time has passed where we in Wales can blame all and sundry for our problems.
Regardless of our history, we are where we are. We have what we have. Let’s make the most with what we’ve got.
No more blaming others – let’s take the responsibility for putting it right ourselves. Now.
Wales needs leadership.
Wales needs a leader who has the energy as well as the determination to fulfil the great responsibility that leading a country like ours involves.
In health, in education and in the economy – our country needs to be doing so much better.
We need someone who will work every hour and leave no stone unturned to make Wales a better place.
Someone who can see the future and is prepared to champion Wales at every opportunity.
Selling our strengths not bemoaning our weaknesses.
Wales needs real leadership.
I pledge to you that when I am returned as First Minister in 2016, I will make sure standards are raised in education.
A Plaid Cymru government will work to provide opportunities for all to reach their best potential and we will make sure the brightest children are able to excel.
So far in the fourth Assembly there have been 59 task and finish groups set up by the government.
That is almost as many reviews announced in under two years, as in the whole history of devolution.
Why so many reviews when the few targets that have been set have been badly missed?
90% of UK GVA by 2010? Missed. Badly.
25% of people Welsh-speaking by 2010? Missed. Badly.
Welsh Ambulances arriving within eight minutes of an incident in 65% of cases.
Missed month after month after month.
Our Assembly is meant to fill the accountability gap.
We shouldn’t have to be caught in a one party state of denial, immune from criticism, refusing to take responsibility.
59 task and finish groups since May 2011 can only mean one thing – a government devoid of ideas.
Well I know the source of the problem and I have a simple solution
It’s time this government was task and finished off
Plaid Cymru wants a Wales which takes control of its own decisions.
A Wales which has control over its own affairs so that we can implement our comprehensive economic plan.
As we stated in our evidence to the Silk Commission this week, the criminal justice system, the police, broadcasting, energy and one of our most precious resources – water – should all be in Welsh hands.
Transfer these responsibilities now.
No hesitation. No excuses. No exceptions and No delay.
Given the failure of its ideology driven austerity politics, Wales should not be prepared to trust the UK Government with any powers.
It is time now to do things differently, for ourselves.
It is time for Wales to have the tools to do the job of turning around our economy.
To be in better shape for business, the Party of Wales wants a connected country.
An improved transport and IT network, making use of rail electrification to build a Valleys Metro and to significantly reduce Cardiff to Bangor rail times.
Being better connected means creative investment in our ports and airports to connect Wales to the world.
And it means high speed broadband connection for all – not just the lucky few.
I want a country where people have opportunities to do well.
Plaid Cymru wants to see improvements in the skills of our people so that we can build a new sustainable, manufacturing economy.
We want to push green engineering skills, and that is why we focused on apprenticeships in our budget negotiations and it is why we have proposed a green skills construction college.
We want to train people in Wales and we want to incentivise them to stay.
And we want to encourage the best innovation in our public sector with additional training for workers so that we can develop the best quality public services.
I want to see more of the Welsh pound invested in Welsh companies and better local procurement to lock that money into our local communities, to help to create more opportunities for people to do well.
This is just a flavour of the policies Wales needs to succeed and flourish.
We are an ancient country with a young democracy.
Proud of its past and deeply frustrated by its present.
Fortunately this old country has a young party, whose members are brimming with ideas, with enthusiasm, with hope and with confidence for a future that is better than its past.
It is a future we have yet to shape.
The shape is up to us.
Political parties are sometimes blunt instruments.
They are far from perfect.
But in a democracy political parties are the only way we have so far invented to create policies to improve our lives and the lives of our communities.
We ask the people of Wales not to put their faith in us, but to invest their faith collectively together with our own.
To become co-creators, co-producers, co-builders of our country.
I ask you to imagine, just for a moment.
Picture in your mind a different future.
Can you visualise a successful Wales, a strong economy and a public service infrastructure that people are not dependent on, but one which enables them instead to flourish?
Can you imagine, with us a different future?
Can you believe that achieving that different, successful future is possible?
Can you see it in your own mind?
Can you imagine what that success might feel like?
I know it is possible. It’s why I do what I do.
But we need more people to see this vision.
Come with us, the party of Wales.
The only party that puts this country first without fail…
Join with Plaid Cymru on this journey….
Help us build our country up.
If, together, we want that vision enough, we can make that future our own.