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Ten Years in the Assembly

03/05/2022

Reflecting on her tenth anniversary as an Assembly Member, Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood AM on how the next decade in Welsh politics can be better than the last.  

On my election to the Assembly in 2003

 

This week marks my tenth anniversary as an Assembly Member.  A lot has changed in that decade.  Back in 2003, I had had only experience of local politics as a councillor for the Penygraig ward on Rhondda Cynon Taf county borough council.  Most of my “real life” experience had come from the probation service, from my role as a tutor with Cardiff University and the odd factory shop job including a stint at the former Bosch plant in Miskin.

I have since authored two substantial policy documents for Plaid Cymru, setting out clear visions in the criminal justice system and for making best use of our resources.  I was Plaid Cymru’s representative on the Yes campaign and built up more valuable political experience by holding a number of portfolios for the party on social justice, housing, regeneration and sustainability. Last year I was elected leader of Plaid Cymru; and I am honoured to say that I am the first woman in our party’s history to hold this position.  So that is the last ten years in a nutshell.  It is to the future that we should now be looking to.  There is a lot of work to do such as building up our economy and improving our educational standards.

That said we must keep an eye on the past, particularly when gauging progress on all policy fields as well as the development of Welsh politics.  The pace of change has been much slower than we in the Party of Wales would have liked.  People’s problems in Wales require urgent attention so the pace of the processes and the still weak settlement is all too often frustrating.  It would be churlish, however, not to acknowledge the distance that has been travelled on the Welsh devolution road over the last ten years.  The people of our nation and their attitudes towards self-governance have also travelled a long way.  In 2003, there were still question marks in the minds of large numbers of people over the worth of the Assembly. The institution itself was also largely powerless with decisions over spending the only real topic of debate.  Those questions were put to bed with the resounding ‘yes’ from nearly every part of Wales for law-making powers for the Assembly in March 2011.  That vote, albeit on a less than ideal low turnout, gives us a golden opportunity to create Welsh laws that can tackle Welsh problems.  Public support for the next stage of self-determination on issues such as the devolution of the criminal justice system and powers over income tax demonstrates two things; people want more decisions about their lives to be taken in Wales and that Plaid Cymru is in tune with the public opinion when it comes to reflecting the growing sense of nationhood in Wales.

So while progress over the last ten years has, been, yes frustrating, it is more important to consider the next ten years.  I am sure that the next decade will provide this ancient country of ours with yet more powers and more responsibility.  In ten years’ time we will be further down the road to being able to stand on our own two feet.  The people of Wales are not only ready for this – according to a series of opinion polls they want it.  The crucial question is; can we have a Welsh Government that wants the extra responsibility too?

It is Plaid Cymru’s goal to ensure that by the time the last vote has been counted in the 2016 Assembly elections that we will have a government which is not only prepared to accept responsibility and take bold decisions when need be, but one that will also have the ambition and foresight needed to make the most of, and, grow our powers and budget.  At the core of a Plaid Cymru Government’s every decision will be a commitment to put the people of Wales first, every time, without recourse to the pull of London and the South East of England.  All of this will only happen with the election of a Plaid Cymru Government.  The hard work starts now if we are to make the next decade in Welsh politics better than the last.