Welsh parliament to debate motion on independence for first time in its history

Support for break from UK has risen to record high as Cardiff took its own path on dealing with coronavirus

For the first time in its history, the Welsh parliament will on Wednesday debate a motion on independence for Wales.

The debate in the Senedd has been called by nationalist party Plaid Cymru on the back of opinion polls showing increased support for breaking away from the UK over the course of the coronavirus outbreak.

The most recent survey found a record high 25 per cent backing for independence — well short of the 54 per cent reported in Scotland but four points up since January.

Plaid leader Adam Price gave the Labour-led administration in Cardiff credit for showing independence from Westminster during the pandemic, with the Welsh response differing markedly from the approach in England.

But he said that under First Minister Mark Drakeford’s leadership Labour in Wales was continuing to support a “stagnant status quo”.

Unlike England, Wales has operated a five-mile rule requiring people not to venture far from their homes during the coronavirus crisis. And Cardiff has stuck to its own timetable for the gradual reopening of society, with pubs and restaurants not resuming business until Monday this week, and then only when serving outdoors.

On four separate days during July, Wales has reported no new deaths from Covid-19, and on Tuesday the official toll was just two.

The regular Welsh Barometer poll found in June that 62 per cent felt the administration in Cardiff was handling the crisis well, compared to only 34 per cent for the UK government.

Mr Price said: “Wales has proven itself during the coronavirus crisis by acting independently to protect our citizens from the dysfunctionality and ineptitude of the Westminster government.

“As we come out of this crisis, we cannot go back to the status quo. The status quo has failed Wales. Under-investment and unfair funding forms the crux of this unequal union of broken promises — delivered by the Tories at Westminster and defended by Labour through their support for the stagnant status-quo.

“Meanwhile, support for Welsh independence is on the rise and the people of Wales are waking up to the idea that there is another way, another future, another choice. And that choice firmly resides with the people of Wales.”

Adam Price (PA)

Wednesday’s Plaid motion calls on the Senedd to tell the Welsh government to seek the constitutional right to allow the Welsh parliament to legislate during the next term to hold a binding referendum on independence.

But a A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The view of this Welsh Government is clear – Wales’ interests are best served by a strong devolution settlement within a strong UK.”

Home rule for Wales has long been less popular than in Scotland, with almost 80 per cent voting against a devolved Welsh assembly in 1979 and the later 1997 referendum backing devolution by the wafer-thin majority of 50.3-49.7 per cent.

- The Welsh Barometer poll had a sample of 1,021 adults and was carried out online by YouGov from 29 May 29 to 1 June.

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