There have been huge changes in Wales in the past few years. The independence movement, Yes Cymru, has seen a massive surge in support, with thousands taking part in marches across the country, until the pandemic kept us at home. One recent poll showed that almost 40% would vote for independence.
The May election to the Senedd (Parliament) has been described as the first truly Welsh election. In its response to COVID19, the (Labour) Welsh Government distanced itself from the recklessness of Boris Johnson's UK Government. People had more trust in the approach of the Welsh government and the First Minister, who was given a high media profile. The crisis raised awareness of the real advantages of devolution, perhaps for the first time since its inception in 1999.
A very positive outcome of the election was the total defeat of the far right and those who advocate the abolition of the Senedd. The Abolish the Assembly Party and the remainder of UKIP and Brexit parties were unceremoniously removed from office. Wales is a better country for that.
Against this very positive backdrop, Plaid Cymru did not succeed in making this the "game-changing" election we had hoped for. We presented a radical and transformative manifesto. In the words of Plaid leader Adam Price:
"We will place at the heart of our economic policy the achievement of a decent life for all our citizens and the reduction of inequality. Economic progress must become the vehicle for the achievement of social justice, individual wellbeing and environmental resilience. The economy is about a lot more than just the production of goods for market, it's about having everything we need in order to grow, flourish and thrive as a society."
For the first time ever, we promised a referendum on independence in the first term of a Plaid Cymru government.
In the event, there was little change in our vote. Nevertheless we began the campaign with 10 members in the Plaid Cymru Senedd Group and we finished with 13.
Adam Price, comfortably retained his seat, and the seat of Dwyfor Meirionnydd was captured by the grandson of Gwynfor Evans who, 55 years ago, became Plaid Cymru's first ever MP. We increased our representation on the regional lists, winning 8 seats in all parts of Wales, and we can once again boast that there is no corner of Wales that does not have a Plaid Cymru representative. The youngest member of the Senedd is Plaid's Luke Fletcher and Elin Jones, re-elected in Ceredigion, has again been made Llywydd (Speaker).
We have a very strong and determined team in the Senedd. In the final line up, Labour have 30 seats, Conservatives 16, Plaid Cymru 13 and Liberal Democrats just 1. Labour have just enough to form a government without needing to seek a coalition but, without an overall majority, there will be times when they will have to work very hard to pursue their agenda.
There will be considerable conflict between the UK Conservative Government with its agenda to weaken devolution and the Welsh Government who wish to do things differently. We are in for a period of legal and political challenges. Institutional change is firmly on the agenda, with more talk of home rule and a possible constitutional convention. Developments in Scotland are being followed closely. This will be a very interesting parliamentary term.
With local elections next year, morale is positive in Plaid Cymru and we will continue to work with renewed energy towards our goal of independence: to put decisions on the future of Wales in the hands of the people of Wales.
Jill Evans, May 2021