Finding our own green shoots


By Bethan Jenkins AM

It has been a positive week for Plaid Cymru in the Assembly. While the other parties have gone about their usual negative business, we’ve made a concerted effort to try and move forward policy that we believe will benefit people across Wales.

On Tuesday, my colleague Llyr Huws Gruffydd formally launched Plaid Cymru’s call for evidence for the Sustainable Communities commission that he and I are jointly chairing.

We’re trying to get as many people as possible to become involved, so it may help to explain what the commission is aiming to do.

People in communities throughout Wales are grappling with similar challenges right now.  There are big economic questions of course, but also social and environmental issues. We need to be asking not how a community can survive in the 21st century, but how it can thrive in the 21st century.

Our work involves building a catch-all approach to economic, social, environmental and regenerative policies. We want to consider how we can rebuild and strengthen our communities, ensuring that we are utilising the enormous natural resources of our nation and the talents of all its people.

Job creation is often rightly at the heart of any consideration of how any community can sustain itself into the future. So we will look at economic considerations within various communities throughout Wales, from former industrial communities in the Gwent Valleys to rural communities in Denbighshire. The scenery may be different but the challenges are often similar – pockets of deprivation, reduced community facilities, and the need to become more self sustaining.

In some parts of Wales there is also the issue of how can we ensure that the Welsh language can maintain its place as the main language of those communities.  How can our policies ensure sustained strength for the language in those areas – and deal with the other challenges that such communities have in common with others throughout Wales?

We are now asking anyone to submit evidence, either by emailing Plaid Cymru, or visiting the commission’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Some of the questions you might consider could include:

  • How do you think we should build our green economy, invest in our knowledge base and create the right infrastructure for a 21st century Wales?

  • How do we reconnect communities with mainstream economic activity – in a way which the people of those communities control?

  • And how can our communities offer sustainable jobs, affordable homes and wider opportunities for our young people?

We need clear and realistic recommendations that will benefit communities across the whole of Wales, and we’ll need your help to do it, so please get in touch.

Plaid also staged a debate on the Greenprint for the Valleys document that was published in March last year by Leanne Wood.

The document was borne out of a desire to bring together solid, bold proposals to reverse the decline in former coalfield areas in South Wales, but its policies don’t have to be confined to that one area and could easily be rolled out across the length and breadth of Wales, and so shares crossover with the commission’s work.

The Greenprint includes many policies which are tried and tested elsewhere in the world and there is no reason why they cannot work in Wales.  For example, the document explores alternative methods of financing local businesses and co-operatives.

In Quebec there is a very good example of how this could with the Capital régional et coopératif Desjardins. This investment fund, created in 2001, raises development capital for co-operatives to invest in the 'resource’, or the less-developed regions of Quebec. In the first five years, the fund grew from $79 million to $587 million. By 2010, $905 million, raised from individuals and the private sector, was supporting, through loans, 225 co-operative enterprises.

What is stopping us from setting up a dedicated fund, along the Quebec lines, to support the expansion of co-operatives and social enterprises in Wales?  We would argue that only a lack of ambition is preventing us from raising much-needed capital for our stuttering economy in Wales.