Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has said her party can deliver the brighter future that the people of Wales are crying out for. Speaking at the Plaid Cymru Spring Conference in Beaumaris, Ynys Mon, Ms Wood told the audience that during her first year as party leader she had learnt that people “the length and breadth of Wales have an unquenchable hope, a huge appetite for a different course.”
She also said she had learnt that many people share an acceptance that “we cannot continue as we are.” Plaid Cymru, Ms Wood said, is the only party that Wales can rightly call its own and the only party that can bring about the “new direction, new start and new leadership” so desperately needed. In her second speech to spring conference as leader, Ms Wood outlined some of the ideas her party would implement if it held the reins of power at Welsh Government.
“I want a connected country,” said Ms Wood. “That means improving our internal road network, continuing the work begun by Ieuan, making use of rail electrification to build a Valleys Metro and bring Cardiff to Bangor rail times to within three hours. And it means creative investment in our ports and airports to connect Wales to the world.
“I want a country where people have opportunities to do well – that means improving the skills of our people to build a new sustainable, manufacturing economy and more engineering skills in particular, delivered in communities through a green skills construction college.
“It means training people in Wales and incentivising them to stay in Wales, innovating in our public sector with training to develop the best quality public services.
“It means supporting more small businesses to enable them to take on new workers or trainees and it means improving the education of all of our children by working towards a system whereby all children are given the gift of bilingualism from three.”
Ms Wood said Plaid Cymru would provide leadership and excellence in education in contrast to the finger-pointing and poor results that have characterised Labour’s unbroken rule over the Welsh education since devolution.
“This May, the Labour party will have been in power in Wales for sixteen years,” said Ms Wood.
“There will be teenagers doing their GCSEs this summer who have lived their whole lives under a Labour Education minister.
“These young people have watched as Wales; in the past a watchword for educational excellence, has slipped further and further behind – not just England, but 36 other countries in reading and 38 more in maths.
“When a child fails their education, the consequences stay with them for life. Ask anyone who didn’t pass the 11 plus. But when our education system fails our children, who takes responsibility?
“To date, no one. Not one education minister has ever been sacked for poor results – in this Government failure is rewarded with promotion.”
She also lamented the number of reviews the Welsh Government has ordered since forming a minority Government less than two years ago.
She said: “There have been almost as many reviews announced under this fourth Assembly as in the whole history of devolution. Why? Because a Government that has been in power for so long has run out of excuses for failure.
“They want to create the semblance of activity. The few targets that they have set in their sixteen years in Government they have missed. 90% of UK GVA by 2010? Missed. 25% of people Welsh-speaking by 2010? Missed.
“Welsh Ambulances arriving within eight minutes of an incident in 65% of cases. Missed month after month after month.
“Our Assembly was meant to fill the accountability gap. No longer would those taking the decisions be free to ignore the consequences of getting those decisions wrong.
“We now have our own democracy, yet we are caught in a one party state-of-denial where Labour politicians from Wales can vote with the UKIP-type Tories against the best interests of Wales, yet in Cardiff Bay Labour politicians bemoan a cut in the EU budget.
“They cannot be allowed to be immune from criticism and from never taking responsibility for the multiple crises – the crisis in our health service, the crisis in our schools, the crisis in our economy – that Labour has left for us.
“They appear to be clueless as to the cause of these problems, and clueless as to the solutions. Which is why we have had 59 task and finish groups established since May 2011. Well I know the source of the problem, and I have a simple solution.
“It’s time to task and finish off this Government!”
Ms Wood finished her speech by saying it was time to provide the vision and the positive future that people are calling out for.
“Our history will be what we make it,” she said. “And we can start today by imagining a different future.
“What have I learned this last year as leader?
“I’ve learned that people the length and breadth of Wales have an unquenchable hope, a huge appetite for a different course – an acceptance that we cannot continue as we are. Our country contains an enormous well-spring of positive, creative, almost limitless social energy.
“People want to make a difference to their world and their Wales. That’s why you’re here, that’s why I’m here, that’s why are here together. And together this small nation can and will do great things.
“People are calling out for a vision. Yes, there is scepticism; that is hardly surprising. The old models of our economy, our politics, our environment are broken.
“The old institutions are rotten to the core. People are looking for new direction, a new start and new leadership. And we need to make sure they find it here, at home, in the only party that this country of ours can rightly call its own. The Party of Wales.”