Finding common ground for the common good – a different type of politics for a modern Wales
Adam Price MS reflects back on a year since the Co-operation Agreement was signed
This article was published in Nation Cymru on Sunday 4 December.
Adam Price MS, Leader of Plaid Cymru, reflects back on a year since his party signed a Co-operation Agreement with the Welsh Government to make a difference to the people in Wales.
One year – a mere 365 days – so much has changed. In that time, Russia has invaded Ukraine, we’ve had three UK Prime Ministers, and the health crisis has been overtaken by a new crisis - the cost-of-living.
It’s hard to believe we’ve seen these tumultuous events in such a short space of time.
In times like these, it’s even more important to remind ourselves of the real progress we’ve made here in Wales over that same time period.
Because it’s been one year – almost to the day – that my party, Plaid Cymru, signed a Co-operation Agreement with the Welsh Government.
One year since we made a promise we made to work together for a different kind of politics.
One year since we announced our shared ambition to feed our children, care for our elderly, and change the lives of thousands of people the length and breadth of our country for the better.
Not a coalition, but a co-operation in the interests of our nation. Finding common ground for the common good.
We knew then that the challenges faced by Wales required real ambition to deliver radical ideas.
No one party has a monopoly on good ideas – and if we knew that then, the significance of working together to help people is now more important than ever.
The extraordinary turmoil in the UK Government, the challenges of rising energy costs and inflation, and the economic challenges resulting from UK Government decision making has impacted us all.
It’s now more important than ever that we are able to take direct action to protect our most vulnerable, to relieve the symptoms of poverty, and to ensure that we have a stable Senedd.
The Co-operation Agreement directly responds to all those needs.
Since the start of the school year in September, an additional 45,000 children were offered a free school meal, with steps in place to roll out free school lunches to all primary school children by 2024. This directly addresses one of the cruellest symptoms of poverty: Hungry children cannot learn. Through co-operation, we’re in the process of giving our primary school pupils a better platform on which to learn and grow.
Through co-operation, we’ve introduced a package of measures to address the proliferation of second homes in many communities, thereby making it possible for more people to afford to live in the place they call home.
We’ve also taken the first steps to expand high-quality free childcare to younger children – saving parents of young children money at this most difficult of times.
Critics are often quick to point out that the free school meals policy benefits children of parents who might be able to afford to feed their children. Apart from the fact that they are tax payers too, the benefits of universal free school meals are well documented. Not only does it remove stigma, increase the range of food pupils eat, and promote healthy eating, it can positively impact local food supply, which in turn supports the Welsh economy.
Often the loudest critics are the Welsh branch of the Conservative party, but when I look at what their party has inflicted on the UK over the last year and compare it to what we have already achieved in Wales just by co-operating on shared ambitions, then I know which flavour of politics I prefer.
That spirit of co-operation weaves its way through our history, shaping the Wales we have today. From the Cwmbach co-op of 1859 to the Tredegar Medical Aid Society that blazed the trail for the NHS, co-operation is at the beating heart of the Welsh radical tradition.
When I spoke at my party’s annual conference, I referred to Plaid Cymru as a party of Welsh Co-operators. Even now in opposition, we are a party of co-opposition. Co-operating and delivering where possible, opposing, scrutinising, probing, and prompting where necessary. We do this for the sake of Wales; to put Cymru first.
The Co-operation Agreement is an ambitious, three-year programme and we’re only one year in.
Across the next two years, we’ll work together on a White Paper to examine the role of fair rents and a right to adequate housing. We’ll continue our work to strengthen Wales' democracy and ensuring people across Wales are better represented - reflecting the modern Wales in which we live.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that Plaid Cymru wants to see universal free school meals in Wales. Because poverty doesn’t stop in primary school, and nor does the fact that hungry children cannot learn.
Where agreement is possible, people rightly expect political parties to work together for the benefit of the nation, and I remain committed to finding common ground for the common good and to change Wales for the better.
The progress we have already made is testament to this way of working, and I look forward to what else we can achieve.