Something is happening in Wales.
Welsh independence is no longer being lead just by ourselves, by Plaid alone. It’s being taken up by a range of civil society and cultural organisations that seemingly have sprung up overnight.
You can feel the sense of mobilisation that’s underway. And it’s being driven by the young people of Wales.
There’s Yes Cymru, signing up 10,000 people pledged to independence. There’s Yes is More, a collection of Welsh artists from across the musical spectrum.
There’s Undod, Welsh Football Fans for Independence, even Labour for an Indy Wales.
Over the past year, over 10,000 have marched together All Under One Banner in independence marches in Cardiff, Caernarfon and Merthyr. On those marches were people of all ages, all colours, from across all genders and faiths – truly a rainbow coalition of solidarity.
Polls show that a solid 30% now support independence.
Independence has moved from the margins into the mainstream of Welsh political debate.
Our mission is to convince the people of Wales that independence is not merely desirable, but actually vitally necessary to tackle our problems and improve our standard of living.
But first we must persuade them that independence is possible. And to do that we must demonstrate that we can begin to tackle the problems that are holding us back, using the powers we already have.
We must use the existing powers in the Senedd to make inroads into the poverty and homelessness that afflict so many of our people – with a third of our children languishing in poverty. We must address the failed ambitions of the past 20 years of devolution under the dead hand of Labour.
We must close the fiscal gap between Wales and the rest of the UK – the gap between what we raise in taxes and the amount we spend on benefits and essential services.
To achieve all this, we have to put together a convincing and transformative programme for government in 2021, one that is credible and deliverable and inspires hope to our people that real improvements to their lives is possible.
But we must also go further.
That’s why I’m proud to announce that Plaid Cymru have today set up a commission to look at how Wales will become independent.
The commission, chaired by the formidable former Plaid Cymru AM and Welsh Government minister Jocelyn Davies, will undertake extensive analysis and develop effective policy to carve a clear pathway to the independence we need as a nation.
The greatest obstacle to Welsh independence is the charge that we simply cannot afford it, that a country as rich as Wales in the skills and imagination of her people is somehow too poor to be independent.
Fundamentally, the reason why there is such a large gap between the taxes we raise in Wales, and the money we spend on benefits and public services, is the way our economy has been mismanaged by successive centralized London governments.
We need independence precisely in order to change that.
But in order to get there we need to demonstrate that, even with the limited powers that the present devolution settlement offers us, we can begin to close the fiscal gap.
Of course, an independent Wales should not be under an obligation to completely balance its books, as most advanced countries run a fiscal deficit. However, this needs to be at a level that is sustainable.
The Independence Commission will undertake an analysis and produce recommendations on policies an incoming Plaid Cymru government should pursue over a 10-year period to ensure that the Welsh fiscal gap is reduced.
Throughout our history, Wales has been lumped in with England in both political and legalistic terms, and so, Wales as a nation, and the interests of its citizens has been marginalised and disregarded. The Commission will draw up a written constitution for an independent Wales, to enshrine our essential rights, and the institutions that will uphold them.
Taking into account the work of the Commission on Justice in Wales, chaired by Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, our Independence Commission will also recommend ways that a distinctive Welsh jurisdiction can be progressed: Wales must have its own body of law if it is to protect its people, and decide its own fate.
While we seek to distance ourselves as a nation from the broken British political system, an independent Wales will strive to maintain robust ties with its neighbours in England, Ireland and Scotland, defined by a set of new relationships.
Plaid Cymru is not a party that is in the business of breaking up Britain.
Instead, we want to re-make Britain. We want to create a new partnership between the nations of these islands on the basis of equality.
It is a clear example of what could be possible in a new constitutional relationship between England, Scotland and Wales.
And it’s a relationship that will sit easily within Europe, just as the Benelux countries see no contradiction between combining together, but doing so within the European Union.
For Europe is at the very heart of our project for creating an independent Wales.
This is a watershed moment in our country’s history. Plaid Cymru believe that independence is the best choice for the people and communities of Wales. This commission will play a crucial part in proving that and preparing the path for Wales on its journey towards its future as an independent country.
Creating a new independent Wales is not the work on one party, but the work of an entire nation, all of its people and all of its perspectives.
It’s time to declare a new Welsh spirit of independence and hope by refusing to put our faith in the Westminster establishment that has failed us for so long. It’s time to choose a future that we ourselves will shape. It’s time to choose our independence.