Journal Column – 9th March

The word historic is often over used in politics. However last Thursday’s referendum result will go down in the history of our nation as the first time our people united behind the concept of a distinct Welsh political identity. If 1997 was too close to call, the result of last weeks poll was never in doubt once the first two counties to declare, Blaenau Gwent and Denbighshire overwhelmingly voted yes.

Never in my wildest dreams, despite the consistency of the polls did I imagine such a conclusive result – 63.6% voting yes. Carmarthenshire once again played its part. The highest turn out in Wales with over 44% voting and over 71% supporting law making powers for our Parliament. I shed a partisan tear looking at the boxes of my home communities in the Amman and Gwendraeth valleys recording emphatic Yes votes – some as high as 90% according to our samples!

To say that last Thursday is a game changer in Welsh politics is an understatement. Such is the categorical nature of the result, it will force the unionist parties in Wales to adopt federalism if they are to remain relevant – where the historic nations of the UK are treaty equally. Let us reflect that despite Thursday’s vote, Wales will continue to have far less fields of responsibility than Northern Ireland and Scotland. Political parties that continue to treat Wales as a second class nation will find themselves increasingly marginalised.

Labour, split in two between a unionist and nationalist tradition faces particular difficulties. Let us remember that the No campaign was led by Labour party activists. For Labour, the party is more important than the people they aim to serve, and therefore the immediate response to the result was to rebuild party unity by talking down any future devolution of power. This is a very dangerous game indeed for Labour. The message to those who supported the yes campaign so emphatically is that Labour do not represent your ambitions and aspirations.

Labour is of course preoccupied with a wider game of undermining the Tory Lib Dem UK Government. Their core narrative is that the only way to protect Wales from the reckless policies of the UK Government is to change Administrations. Plaid’s core vision has always been that the best way to defend Wales from UK Governments of whatever colour is to develop our own democracy and sovereignty. The clear nature of last Thursday’s referendum indicates that the people of Wales are increasingly coming to the same conclusion.

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