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Leanne Wood, Bae watch (March 2013)

(March 01, 2013)

Bae Watch; with Leanne Wood Leanne Wood - Senedd

 

March 1st is a great time to be Welsh. It means it's nearly the start of spring, which is one of my favourite times of the year as it brings hope for the new.

Along with our unique language, our strong sense of community and a passion for international rugby that is arguably unrivalled, our patron saint, St David, is one aspect to distinguish Wales from other countries in the UK. Over many years now I have marked the occasion by attending the St David’s Day parade through the centre of Cardiff; which seems to grow with every single year. In the early days, the parade was a fraction of the size it is today. Its popularity is a very positive sign of the pride people now take in being Welsh and in celebrating our culture. It is unfortunate that this year I will have to miss the parade, as Plaid Cymru will be holding its spring conference at the same time; it will be in Beaumaris, Anglesey this year. My second speech to a Plaid Cymru spring conference since becoming party leader also marks almost my first year anniversary as Plaid Cymru leader.

Plaid Cymru is proud of what we have achieved over the last 12 months and I will outline these achievements in my leaders’ speech in Beaumaris. Throughout the last year, I have made it clear that our focus is on the economy and job creation. That focus is essential if we are to turn our economy into a success by forging an alternative path to the austerity-driven politics of Westminster. Within the first few days of my election, I launched an Economic Commission which, in its first piece of work - Offa’s Gap - laid out succinctly how far the Welsh economy has slipped behind England’s over the last two decades. The challenge will now be to close that gap and that is exactly what the commission will be focusing on.

Until the major economic levers of power are devolved to Wales, there is a limit to what can be done. However, we have to make the most of what we have and something that can be done by the Welsh Government now is the adoption of Plaid Cymru's Plan C for the economy. That means more public sector contracts would be awarded to local firms and more people could be employed by them as a result. At the moment, just over half the public sector contracts in Wales are awarded to Welsh-based firms. If that 50% were raised to a 75% self-procurement rate, 50,000 jobs could be created in Wales. Local businesses throughout the country would benefit from this significant extra investment in the Welsh economy. It would also make up for the 50,000 jobs lost in Wales since the beginning of the recession. The Welsh Government need to adopt these kind of policies as a matter of urgency.

Our conference will also provide the opportunity for us to highlight other positive policies Plaid Cymru has developed over the last year, as well as demonstrating the effective ways in which we have scrutinised the minority Labour Government and forced them to retreat on some issues. One example is their stubborn refusal to fund the council tax shortfall following the devolution of the benefit from Westminster. Had they not back-tracked it would have impacted on 230,000 people by making them pay council tax bills for the first time. The Labour Government dug their heels in, insisting for months and months that the money was not there … until January of this year when they suddenly found the £22 million that was needed. This was in no small part down to the effective way my party colleagues in the Assembly, in particular Local Government spokesperson Rhodri Glyn Thomas, put pressure on the Welsh Government to do the right thing. It was just a shame it was not done earlier, as it was by the SNP in Scotland, in order to avoid the uncertainty and fear caused to many people in receipt of the benefit.

Another theme I will touch on in my speech is education, which is generally accepted as an area where we, as a country, need to see vast improvement. Welsh children are being failed by the system, plain and simple. We have an Education Minister who seems to be busy pointing the finger of blame at everyone else for the slipping standards, but not accepting responsibility himself. Children sitting their GCSEs this summer will have spent their entire school education under a devolved education system and a Labour Education Minister. If the educational problems and issues we have now and the dismal PISA standings are not the responsibility of Labour education ministers, whose responsibility is it? The Government seems to think that a banding system, which looks and smells much like the discredited league tables, is the answer to the problems in education. My party, along with much of the teaching profession, has serious doubts over the benefits of such a system.

During the last National Eisteddfod in Llandow, Vale of Glamorgan, I announced that a Plaid Cymru Government would ensure children from the age of three are immersed in Welsh, to ensure they have the gift of being bilingual. This will have additional educational benefits, as well as opening their minds to the ability to absorb other languages. Children could have the opportunity to become tri-lingual at the very least – much like children are in Luxembourg, who are successfully taught Lëtzebuergesch, French and German.

The people of Wales are crying out for something different. Things cannot be allowed to drift further. I will continue to ensure at every level that Plaid Cymru provides the drive, ambition and fresh-thinking to give Wales a future.

Leanne Wood AC/AM, 1 March 2013

 

 

Also from Leanne Wood:
     Bae Watch; December 2012
     Bae Watch; September 2012

     Bae Watch; June 2012

     Bae Watch; March 2012

     Bae Watch; December 2011

     Bae Watch; September 2011

     Bae Watch; June 2011

 

Leanne Wood's contact details:

     Website: http://www.leannewood.org/

     Facebook: Leanne Wood

     Twitter: @LeanneWood

 

 

 

 

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