There are so many problems people face in Wales that cannot be solved in Wales. And politicians are being let off the hook. Two conclusions to draw from the many excellent contributions in the first of six meetings, hosted by Plaid Cymru this week in Radyr, to discuss the future of Cymru.

I can also report that the work of the Independent Commission looking at the political future of Wales is well underway. We have taken oral evidence from a range of different organisations and interested parties. More than eight hundred people have submitted individual survey responses so far with a deadline at the end of July 2022. 

The Commission, set up as part of the agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh government in the Senedd, is tasked with considering all constitutional options for Wales, including independence.

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I’m facilitating these meetings in my role as a Commission member and I ask anyone who is interested to come along, whatever your politics. The purpose of the meetings is to hear from as many people as possible before compiling Plaid Cymru’s written submission.

More than anything it was good just to get together with others to discuss and debate after having to do so over zoom for so long. You could feel the buzz in the room and the warmth. Conversation is more free flowing and natural. I never thought I’d say that being in a political meeting was wonderful, but it was.

We heard from people who are battling injustices or who have been wronged. The woman whose husband works as a carer and was being treated appallingly by his employer. The woman in a wheelchair explaining how a high percentage of buildings are still inaccessible to her and how difficult it is to participate and do what many of us take for granted. Yet we can’t do anything to solve the problems because neither employment nor equality legislation is devolved. 

Health, education, housing, substance services are all devolved, but the criminal justice system, including policing, isn’t and neither is the welfare system. This seriously hampers the Senedd’s ability to solve people’s problems. It also causes confusion and prevents accountability. As one woman put it ‘we are being gaslit’.

In a poll conducted in 2014, 43% of respondents wrongly believed that health was the responsibility of Westminster and 42% of people believed that policing was devolved. I’m sure more people will have greater understanding since covid, especially about health. Nevertheless confusion as to who is responsible for what contributes to a lack of accountability. To those of us who regularly knock people’s doors to talk politics with them, the ‘politicians are all the same’ mantra coupled with a belief that nothing can change are the norm.

Questions of accountability cut to the heart of democracy. And democracy is under threat. References in the meeting were made to recent events in Westminster. More positively there was a feeling that we can do so much better as Wales if we had the opportunity.

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We heard strong arguments against Westminster’s direct and persistent attacks on human rights. Ask anyone who is trans, or has experienced the asylum system, or the prison system and it won’t take long to see the threats to their rights. One suggestion was a written Welsh constitution, guaranteeing basic rights and committing to all citizens being treated equally.

What we all can agree on, whether we are for independence or not, is that Wales faces deep economic and financial challenges, whether we pursue independence or not. Some of those threats or risks are outlined in this podcast episode.

It was therefore encouraging to hear people give examples from elsewhere in the world where financial systems have been set up quickly after independence and, despite initial economic shocks, have gone on to prosper. 

If you would like to be part of this discussion about our country’s future, come along to one of our meetings. They are listed here.

And you can have your say by completing this survey from the Commission here.

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