Current Affairs Politics

Plaid Cymru – Regionalist Or Nationalist?

Some months ago I argued that Plaid Cymru’s greatest failure was its reluctance to apply the party’s brand of self-confident nationalism in the area of politics that it had applied so successfully in the areas of language and culture. While Plaid had undoubtedly been at the forefront of language revival and equality in Wales, far surpassing the efforts of political parties in the other Celtic nations, it had shied away from making the same commitment to the quest for independence.

Instead the party pursued a timid political nationalism quiet at odds with its cultural nationalism, embracing a sort of home rule mentality in the pursuit of votes that largely pushed the issue of independence for Wales to one side. Now, with the SNP showing in Scotland that progressive nationalism has the potential to garner real electoral support (and power), the party is once again returning to its core principals. The BBC reports that:

‘Plaid Cymru members vote to change the party’s constitution, to call for Wales to be independent.

Plaid Cymru’s annual conference has explicitly committed the party to achieving independence for Wales.

A motion pledging the party to securing “independence for Wales in Europe” was backed overwhelmingly by delegates in Llandudno.

Plaid’s constitution previously stated it aimed for “full national status for Wales within the European Union”.

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan accused the party of an “isolationist agenda”.

The use of the term independence has been a bone of contention in Plaid Cymru for decades.

Former Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Wigley famously declared in 1999 that the party had “never ever” advocated independence, and follows the election successes of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in Scotland.

Throughout this conference many senior party figures have drawn parallels with the SNP’s pursuit of independence and now believe that this is a path that Plaid should now follow.

It has, however, always been a long-term aim of many party members.

The change comes at a time when Plaid Cymru is engaged in a wide ranging review, after disappointing assembly election results and Ieuan Wyn Jones’ decision to stand down as leader in March.

Current party leader Ieuan Wyn Jones will stand down in the spring Conference delegate Marcus Warner said: “On the surface the motion may seem a bit trite, maybe a technicality, but I don’t agree.

“The lifeblood of our renewal as a party and as a nation must be a crystal clear commitment to independence.”’

This is a welcome move with the proviso that Plaid’s leadership has always tended towards a cautious, conservative mind and could well slip back towards the minimalist style of politics that it has pursued over the last two decades. That, indeed is Plaid Cymru’s big challenge in the years ahead, to decide once and for all if it is a Welsh regionalist or nationalist party.

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