Wales politics

Plaid independence referendum call rejected by Senedd members

Thousands march for Welsh independence in Caernarfon
Image caption A march for Welsh independence in Caernarfon last summer

A call for Welsh ministers to seek the right for the Senedd to legislate for an independence referendum has been rejected by the Welsh Parliament.

Plaid Cymu's Rhun ap Iorwerth said Wales could have dealt better with Covid-19 if it was self-governing.

But Tory Darren Millar said independence would "make us less resilient to global events".

Labour minister Jane Hutt said Wales was "best served by a strong devolution settlement within a strong UK".

Constitutionally, an independence referendum would require the agreement of the UK government, as was the case with the one in Scotland in 2014.

Opening the debate, Mr ap Iorwerth, Senedd member for Ynys Mon, said that if Wales had the "kinds of tools that independent countries have the ability to devise" it could have handled the pandemic better.

Independent small nations such as Norway, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Serbia and Lithuania "have death rates a tenth of Wales", he said.

"We are not asking the Senedd to support independence today, but asking the Senedd to support the principle that the people of Wales should decide," he said.

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Image caption Adam Price: "We the people of Wales are the builders of a better Wales"

Clwyd West Conservative Senedd member Mr Millar said independence would be "bad for Wales and bad for the United Kingdom".

"It would make us less resilient to global events and catastrophes - we would be less secure," he said,

"And of course we know that, as a net beneficiary of the UK Treasury, Wales would be poorer."

UKIP Senedd member Neil Hamilton said an independent Wales would see a "massive contraction" of its economy and "all the poverty and deprivation which that would imply".

"But I think what we have seen in the last 20 years is the comprehensive failure of devolution to deliver on the promises that were made for it."

Image caption Darren Millar said independence would be "bad for Wales and bad for the United Kingdom"

Ex-UKIP Senedd leader Gareth Bennett last month announced he was joining the Abolish the Welsh Assembly party.

In his contribution to Wednesday night's debate he said a referendum should be held on abolition of the Senedd and politicians should "then do precisely what Wales' people tell us to do".

Labour Welsh Government deputy minister Jane Hutt said Wales' best interests were "best served by a strong devolution settlement within a strong UK and the United Kingdom is better and stronger for having Wales in it".

Although she described the "current model" of devolution as "outmoded and inappropriate".

There was a need to establish "inter-governmental mechanisms to ensure we can address the many challenges that lie ahead", Ms Hutt said.

Image caption Jane Hutt said Wales was best served within a strong UK devolution settlement

Winding up the debate, Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said the "crisis and upheaval" of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic had "opened people's minds to new possibilities".

"We the people of Wales are the builders of a better Wales," he said.

"No one else will build it for us."

Plaid Cymru's motion was rejected by 43 Senedd members, with nine in favour of it and one abstention.

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